In yet another blow to Boris Johnson’s government, which is barely two months old, the decision to prorogue Parliament earlier this month was ruled to be unlawful and void yesterday, according to a ruling by the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court came to a unanimous verdict, with all 11 justices finding that the government’s prorogation of Parliament was justiciable, allowing them to pass judgement on its legality, in its role as the highest court in the land.
Boris Johnson, who was in New York for a UN General Assembly meeting at the time, responded to the news: “We will not be deterred from delivering the will of the British people to leave the EU.”
Mr Johnson was quickly forced to cut his New York trip short, with the intention of flying back to London, to address MPs this afternoon.
Property Notify readers indicated recently that they supported the prorogation of Parliament, by a margin of 59 per cent to 41 per cent.
Null and void
Mr Johnson’s response poses serious questions, given that the government’s argument during the Supreme Court hearing on prorogation was based on the premise that prorogation had been sought in order to end the current session of Parliament and unveil a domestic legislative agenda with a Queen’s Speech, as opposed to something directly related to Brexit.
Parliament was expected to be prorogued for up to five weeks, but the government denied that the move was motivated by a desire to stifle debate among MPs about withdrawal from the EU. This was despite the fact that the prorogation was among one of the lengthiest in British political history.
When the Supreme Court made its final ruling after a week of hearings, it concluded: “This was not a normal prorogation in the run-up to a Queen’s Speech. It prevented Parliament carrying out its constitutional role for five out of a possible eight weeks between the end of the summer recess and exit day on the 31st October.”
The Supreme Court added that the government’s Royal Commissioners had effectively walked into Parliament with a blank piece of paper, saying that the Commissioners had not been acting in their capacity as members of the House of Lords, but actually as Royal Commissioners simply carrying out the Queen’s Bidding.
Not about Brexit
Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, opened the prorogation hearings on 17th September, and commented: “As will be apparent when we hear the legal arguments, the determination of this legal issue will not determine when and how the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.”
This reflected the Supreme Court’s desire to distance itself from claims of being politicised or making some move to frustrate Brexit in any way.
Despite this, critics of its ruling, including former Conservative party leader Iain Duncan Smith MP, claimed: “This judgement will greatly assist Remainers in seizing control of government again.”
As the Supreme Court’s ruling found the prorogation both unlawful and void, the prorogation itself is considered to have effectively never happened, and MPs are already making plans to return to Parliament, to continue to scrutinise the government and continue their own work in building legislation.