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UK Supreme court begins hearing on suspension of parliament

Wednesday, 18 September, 2019 - 10:28

The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom began a three-day hearing on Tuesday on the legality of the government’s decision to suspend Parliament, which has been strongly criticised by its opponents as a maneuver to impose a disorderly Brexit .

Under the fire of criticism from politicians and civil society, the prorogation of Parliament has been the subject of several legal actions with opposing verdicts.

On September 11, Scotland’s highest civilian court ruled the suspension “unlawful” because it would “hinder parliament”. However in another case, brought anti-Brexit activist, Gina Miller, the London High Court refused to issue a ruling, saying that prorogation was a “political” decision and therefore not a matter for the courts.

Referred on appeal, both cases will be heard in the Supreme Court in London for three days.

The first day will be devoted to the presentation of the plaintiffs’ case: in one case Gina Miller, and in the other 78 pro-European parliamentarians, led by Joanna Cherry, member of the Scottish National Party SNP.

The government’s defence will respond on Wednesday, while former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, who supports Gina Miller, will be heard on the third day of the hearing. 

If, at the end of this new episode in the chaotic Brexit saga, the Supreme Court deems the suspension illegal, Parliament will be immediately recalled, according to legal experts.

The two chambers of the British Parliament saw their work suspended last Tuesday, at the end of a long and heated debate about the UK’s departure from the European Union, and is not due to resume until October 14, two weeks before the planned date of Brexit.

Johnson justified his request to suspend parliament to Queen Elizabeth II on the grounds that the government needed need to develop and present its national policy program, a common practice when there is a change of government.

However, opponents of a disorderly Brexit denounced it as an attack on parliamentary democracy.

It is only the second time since the court’s inception ten years ago that all eleven judges have all come together to consider a specific case. The first time was in 2016 and also about Brexit. The Court then held that the government of Theresa May had the obligation to seek the consent of Parliament before invoking Article 50 which kicked off the countdown for the exit of the European Union.

In an attempt to avoid a Brexit without an agreement,  Parliament urgently approved, before its suspension, a law forcing the Prime Minister to request a new extension of Brexit if on October 19 he has not reached an acceptable agreement with Brussels.

Johnson has said he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than request a new extension, but the opposition’s refusal to call elections will force the prime minister to request the postponement or possibly resign.

 


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