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Campaigners Launch Legal Challenges to Parliament Suspension

Activists are trying to block Boris Johnson’s five-week suspension of Parliament in courts.

Gina Miller, who already altered the course of Brexit in 2016 when she secured the court's ruling that Parliament must vote on the process, today launched a High Court legal challenge seeking to block the PM’s five-week suspension of Parliament.

She accused Boris Johnson of an «unlawful abuse of power».

The case is being heard today.

Her representative Lord Pannick QC told the court: “Our case is that the Prime Minister’s advice to Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for the period of five weeks is an unlawful abuse of power.”

“And the reason it is an abuse of power is because it breaches the legal principle ... of Parliamentary sovereignty….because the effect of the prorogation is to remove the ability of Parliament to enact such legislation as it sees fit.”

Last week Mr Johnson asked the Queen to sign off his decision to prorogue Parliament, so he can set out a new set of policies when it returns.

Yet his opponents say the move was designed to prevent Parliament from stopping a no-deal Brexit at the end of October.

Former prime minister John Major and representatives of three parties, including Labour’s shadow Attorney General Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, also joined the legal case against Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament.

Their bid to challenge the legality of the prorogation of Parliament will be heard by three of the most senior judges in Britain today; the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton and the President of the Queen’s Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp.

The three judges will initially consider whether the case can proceed - if they rule that it can, then a full airing of the issue will follow immediately.

A court’s spokesman has confirmed that “the court will consider the request for the case to be heard, and if it agrees, a full hearing will follow the same day. The hearing is listed for a full day.”

Judicial review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body and is a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached.

The case is one of three legal challenges launched against the proroguing of Parliament, the other two being in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Yesterday, a judge in Edinburgh dismissed the Scottish claim, finding that the issue was political and, therefore, cannot be resolved in court.

Lord Doherty said that choosing when to prorogue Parliament was for politicians and not the courts.

He ruled: «The power to prorogue is a prerogative power and the Prime Minister had the vires (powers) to advise the sovereign as to its exercise».

A campaigner is bringing a case in Belfast arguing that no-deal could jeopardise the Northern Ireland peace process.

Whatever the outcome of the challenges against the decision to prorogue Parliament, it is likely that the dispute will end up at the UK’s highest court.

A spokeswoman for the Supreme Court in London has said that «should any parties choose to appeal to the UK Supreme Court following the prorogation appeal hearings in the lower courts», the court has set aside September 17 «as a date to hear such an appeal».

After the ruling in Scotland, a UK Government spokesman said: «We welcome the court’s decision and hope that those seeking to use the judiciary to frustrate the Government take note and withdraw their cases».

Published: September 5, 2019