Brexit: MPs and peers taking legal action to stop Boris Johnson from suspending Commons to allow no deal

Cross-party group of parliamentarians want Scottish court to rule before MPs return to Westminster in September

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Monday 22 July 2019 22:03
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Boris Johnson in profile

A cross-party group of MPs and peers is taking legal action to ensure the UK’s likely next prime minister Boris Johnson cannot suspend parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.

The group is seeking a ruling in Scotland’s Court of Session that the prime minister cannot lawfully advise the Queen to use a mechanism called prorogation to suspend sittings of the House of Commons in the run-up to the 31 October deadline for Brexit.

They aim to have their crowdfunded case heard by the court – which sits through August – in time for a decision to be in place before MPs return from their summer break in September.

Mr Johnson has said he will take the UK out of the European Union by Halloween, with or without a deal, if he is elected Theresa May’s successor as Conservative leader and PM. He has not ruled out the option of suspending parliament to stop MPs from blocking a no-deal outcome.

The group has informed the government’s legal representative in Scotland, Advocate General Lord Keen, that it will sue for a court guarantee of the position in seven days’ time.

The cross-party group includes parliamentarians from Labour, the Scottish National Party, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Greens as well as a number of independents.

It also includes barrister Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Project, which is backing the action. Among those backing the move are new Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, Labour’s former Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain and independent former Tory MP Heidi Allen.

Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said: “Taking back control surely didn’t mean shutting down parliament. This exposes yet another vacuous lie of the Leave campaign.

“Boris Johnson’s dangerous and reckless proposal to shut parliament down is undemocratic and simply cannot go unchallenged.

“A cross-party group of Scottish parliamentarians have already established that the UK can revoke Article 50, and now there is a fresh cross-party bid to once again stand up for the people of Britain.

New Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson is among MPs backing the legal bid

“The future of the country is at stake, and working together across parties in the best interests of the people of the entire UK has never been more important.”

The petitioners are represented by the same legal team as brought the successful Wightman action, which established in 2018 that the UK has the right unilaterally to withdraw its notice of intention to quit the EU under Article 50.

They will seek a ‘declarator’ from the court that the prime minister cannot lawfully advise the Queen to suspend parliament, citing the Wightman case to argue that the court should state the law in advance of the Queen being asked to suspend parliament.

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