Parliament case opens at Supreme Court as Brexit nears
Britain’s Supreme Court began a hearing yesterday to decide whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson broke the law when he suspended Parliament just weeks before the United Kingdom is due to leave the European Union, in a case that pits the powers of elected lawmakers against those of the executive.
Johnson sent lawmakers home from September 9 until October 14, which is barely two weeks before the scheduled Brexit day of October 31.
The decision outraged many lawmakers, who say it’s designed to prevent them from challenging Johnson’s plan to take Britain out of the EU next month, with or without a divorce deal.
The suspension sparked legal challenges, to which lower courts have given contradictory rulings. England’s High Court said the suspension was a political rather than legal matter, but Scottish court judges ruled last week that Johnson acted illegally “to avoid democratic scrutiny.”
The UK’s top court is being asked to decide who was right, in a case scheduled to last up to three days. It is considering two questions: Is this a matter for the courts; and, if so, did the government break the law?
David Pannick, attorney for transparency campaigner Gina Miller, said Johnson had improperly suspended the legislature “to silence Parliament ... because he sees Parliament as an obstacle to the furtherance of his political aims.”
Pannick said it was a fundamental constitutional principle that “Parliament is sovereign and the executive is accountable to Parliament.”