Boris Johnson loses historic ruling after Supreme Court finds suspension of Parliament was unlawful

Boris Johnson has lost a legal battle over his Parliament suspension in the Supreme Court (Picture: Reuters)

MPs will return to Westminster tomorrow after Boris Johnson lost a historic Supreme Court case after judges unanimously ruled that his advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament was unlawful.

The panel of 11 justices decided the five-week prorogation of Parliament was designed to prevent Parliament from carrying out its duties, and was therefore “void and of no effect”.

Speaking from New York, the PM said he “strongly disagreed” with the judges’ decision.

Boris Johnson pictured in New York after judges at the Supreme Court in London ruled that his advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful.

He said: “Obviously this is a verdict that we will respect and we respect the judicial process.

“I have to say that I strongly disagree with what the justices have found. I don’t think that it’s right but we will go ahead and of course Parliament will come back.”

Told the court found the prorogation unlawful and undemocratic, Mr Johnson said: “I’m not certain that the justices did say that. I think that they certainly thought that the prorogation we chose was not something they could approve of.

“It’s an unusual judgment to come to.”

Gina Miller reacts outside the Supreme Court in London, where judges have ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP leaving the Supreme Court in London, where judges have ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful.

A Number 10 source said Mr Johnson will fly back from New York in time to attend Parliament tomorrow.

The decision is a devastating blow for the Prime Minister, who was accused in court last week of an unlawful “abuse of power”.

Mr Johnson immediately faced calls to resign from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

What does the Supreme Court ruling mean?

MPs are already returning to Parliament and will sit on Wednesday morning.

Commons Speaker Jon Bercow announced that he was putting in place arrangements for MPs to sit at 11.30am.

“The citizens of the UK are entitled to expect that Parliament does discharge its core functions, that it is in a position to scrutinise the executive, to hold ministers to account and to legislate if it chooses,” he said.

The Speaker of the House of Lords said peers would also be sitting tomorrow from 3pm.

A man wearing a giant Boris Johnson mask, dressed as a prisoner, stands outside the Supreme Court in London, where judges have ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was illegal (Jonathan Brady/PA Wire)
Protesters stand outside the Supreme Court, where judges judges that Boris Johnson broke the law when he decided to suspend Parliament.

Supreme Court president Lady Hale said: “It is for Parliament, and particularly the Speaker and the Lord Speaker to decide what to do next.

“Unless there is some Parliamentary rule of which we are unaware, they can take immediate steps to enable each House to meet as soon as possible.

“It is not clear to us that any step is needed from the Prime Minister, but if it is, the court is pleased that his counsel have told the court that he will take all necessary steps to comply with the terms of any declaration made by this court.”

Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, confirmed that Boris Johnson acted illegally when he prorogued Parliament for five weeks (PA Images)
The 11 Supreme Court judges: (top row, from left) Lord Sales, Lady Arden, Lady Black, Lord Kerr, (second row, from left) Lord Hodge, Lady Hale, Lord Kitchin, Lord Lloyd-Jones, (bottom row, from left) Lord Carnwath, Lord Wilson, and Lord Reed (Pictures: PA)

Will Boris Johnson resign?

Labour MPs swiftly reacted to the ruling by calling for the Prime Minister to step aside.

Taking to the stage at the Labour Party conference, Jeremy Corbyn urged the PM to “consider his position and become the shortest-serving PM there has ever been”.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson called on the PM to resign on Twitter.

Labour MP Sarah Jones also tweeted: “Surely the Prime Minister has to resign.”

Senior Labour MP Angela Eagle said: “He should resign: he has been found lying and cynical – he’s lied to the Queen. He’s used cynical reasons to cover up what is his attempt to gag Parliament.

A Downing Street source confirmed the PM is not planning to step aside.

The source said: “Following the PM giving his speech at the UN this evening he will be flying back overnight to the UK and there will be a Cabinet call today while the PM is in New York.”

Two court rulings

The judges were considering appeals to two previous rulings on the suspension of Parliament.

At the High Court in London, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and two other judges rejected campaigner and businesswoman Gina Miller’s challenge, finding that the prorogation was “purely political” and not a matter for the courts.

But in Scotland, a cross-party group of MPs and peers led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC won a ruling from the Inner House of the Court of Session that Mr Johnson’s prorogation decision was unlawful.

Businesswoman Gina Miller appealed a previous High Court ruling at the Supreme Court (Picture: PA)

Mrs Miller had appealed against the decision of the High Court, asking the Supreme Court to find that the judges who heard her judicial review action “erred in law” in the findings they reached.

“Abuse of power”

During last week’s hearing, Lord Pannick QC, for Mrs Miller, told the packed court that Mr Johnson’s motive for a five-week suspension was to “silence” Parliament, and that his decision was an “unlawful abuse of power”.

He argued that Mr Johnson’s reasons for advising on a suspension of that length “were improper in that they were infected with factors inconsistent with the concept of Parliamentary sovereignty”.

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