Legal challenge launched to stop PM forcing through no-deal Brexit

The Canary

A cross-party group of politicians has launched legal action attempting to stop Boris Johnson forcing through a no-deal Brexit by suspending Parliament.

The crowdfunded challenge is being led by the Good Law Project, the same team that won a victory at the European Court of Justice last year over whether the UK could unilaterally cancel Brexit by revoking Article 50.

Shutting down Parliament – known as proroguing – to prevent MPs being able to vote against leaving the EU without a deal is “unlawful and unconstitutional”, according to the challenge backed by more than 70 MPs and peers.

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The prime minister has threatened to take the UK out of the EU with or without a deal by 31 October.

With the UK Government and the EU seemingly at a standoff over renegotiating the thrice-rejected Withdrawal Agreement, Johnson has not ruled out proroguing Parliament to force no-deal Brexit through.

A group of politicians, including Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson, Labour MP Jess Phillips and SNP MP Joanna Cherry, has asked the Court of Session in Scotland to declare that prime minister Boris Johnson cannot lawfully advise the Queen to close down Parliament.

Founder of the Good Law Project Jolyon Maugham QC said: “The fact that so many MPs elected by the people are going to the Court of Session to stop a Prime Minister selected by members of the Conservative Party from suspending Parliament tells you quite how profoundly our politics has declined.”

The legal papers, lodged with the Court of Session in Scotland as it sits through the summer, states: “Seeking to use the power to prorogue Parliament to avoid further parliamentary participation in the withdrawal of the UK from the EU is both unlawful and unconstitutional.”

Warning that “the exercise of the power of prorogation would have irreversible legal, constitutional and practical implications for the United Kingdom”, the challenge calls for the court to declare that proroguing Parliament before October 31 would be both unconstitutional and unlawful by denying MPs and Lords the chance to debate and approve the decision.

While no date has been set to hear the case, the campaigners have stressed the time-sensitive nature of the challenge, with less than three months until the current withdrawal date.

The challenge adds: “The issues raised in this petition clearly concern a live constitutional issue on which there is a real and practical necessity to have the court’s determination as a matter of urgency.”

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    1. We have a head of state known as Elizabeth II. Her role is not merely decorative. The monarch retains a number of important residual prerogatives. Those impinging directly on conduct of politics are rarely exercised; political stability and continuance of monarchy require affected parties to strive for settlement; in general, upsetting the apple cart is in nobody’s long term interests.

      Elizabeth must soon decide whether to intervene in the present political impasse. What’s at stake is no minor matter. In a broad sense it is constitutional: British subjects of the crown may be forced against their will to renounce citizenship within the EU and the various rights and protections that offers. They are being pushed toward an unknown fate within which poorly explicated dangers lurk. There is concern that some major institutions (e.g. the NHS) beloved by Elizabeth’s people may be sacrificed on the altar of ‘who knows what?’

      Given that Elizabeth’s parliament is in disarray, her responsibility is such that she must not let long term governance of the UK be decided on whim or arbitrary application of rarely used powers, indeed anachronistic powers, by custom delegated to her prime minister.

      Elizabeth is, by convention, required to take into consideration the so-called ‘will of the people’ as expressed in parliament. She will be aware that parliament, and the population at large, is divided over the extent of authority given to parliament by a bare majority in a referendum with 72% turnout. She also ought be aware of that fact that the referendum question lacked nuance concerning desired nature of disengagement from the EU. In addition she should note that ‘constitutional’ referenda conducted elsewhere generally demand a high percentage (often 75%) in favour of change from a pre-specified acceptable turnout.

      Thus, Elizabeth may legitimately judge that her intervention has no bearing on the true ‘will of the people’ because said ‘will’ was elicited in incompetent manner. She may note that a clean break from the EU need be no matter of urgency even should that, upon later polling, turn out to be what a sizeable majority want.

      Elizabeth will be advised by her Privy Council (and perhaps others). She should note that the inner core of her Council, that which in her name decides important matters such as foreign policy and exercises some other residual prerogatives on her behalf, is unlikely to be manned by people capable of exercising a disinterested stance: bluntly, there are powerful interests, perhaps among her own family too, favouring ‘no deal’ Brexit to feather their own nests.

      Elizabeth, in these closing years of her reign, faces crossroads her immediate predecessors did not. The Wallis Simpson scandal was trivial in comparison.

      Elizabeth must decide whether she stands for her people or for the ambitions of her recently restructured, that without a general election, government. Obviously, she cannot be expected to divine the true so-called ‘will of her people’. The referendum was deeply flawed and in subsequent shambles a lot of water has flowed under the bridge. It must not be assumed events in 2016 still lead to the best options.

      By threatening to push through no-deal Brexit by excluding further proper parliamentary scrutiny, Elizabeth’s newly appointed prime minister is displaying breathtaking arrogance; this to a degree uncountenanced in the twentieth century and eyebrow raising in the nineteenth.

      This is the time when, drawing upon immense experience accumulated over many decades, Elizabeth II must show mettle as the monarch for the people. Perhaps, sense can be instilled in various heads behind the scenes; diplomacy of a monarch with a, possibly one punch, iron fist in a velvet glove. Failing that, the knave Johnson must be firmly put in his proper place.

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      Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 international license.

      1. What an excellent post and comment (Smythe-Mogg), thanks for your insights,

        Oh how I wish the Queen would indeed deliver her people from these tyrannical corporate-loving, truly anti-democratic, democratically-treasonous knaves like Johnson, with not just a one-punch iron fist in a velvet glove, but a full-on mailed glove with spikes! That would send a very clear message to current and future wannabe ministers/politicians/corporate heads.

        I think (half-jokingly), that it would be very beneficial to Elizabeth II and us, for Her Royal Highness to keep on punching the smug, lawbreaking, and law-twirking wannabe despots like Blair/Cameron/May/Farage/Johnson….and so many more, until they learn what democracy actually is, and what it is not.

        On second thought, seeing that we seem to be going backwards in time on everything, maybe Her Royal Highness could accept a Johnson-led proroguing of parliament on condition he accept a re-introduction of Monarchy rule, and an invitation to The Tower for some enhanced re-education.

        Still, dream as I might, I can’t see The Queen doing anything that would save her people from these arseholes, she certainly hasn’t appeared to be against anything that has led us to where we are now (Illegal Iraq wars, prosecution of Assange, propping up of despots with sales of weapons which break our own laws, our involvement in Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, the deliberate murder of many citizens by ATOS/DWP, and so many more examples) but still, I can hope.

        Side-note; Isn’t it interesting that we have a ‘Johnson’ leading or country, and the US has a ‘Trump’ leading theirs? No wonder Russia is ‘Putin’ it out there! It’s a case of the UK sticking its Johnson where its not wanted all because a noisy, bad smell came from America.

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