Parliament suspension move faces multiple legal challenges - GulfToday

Parliament suspension move faces multiple legal challenges


An anti-Brexit protester holds placards in London on Thursday. Reuters

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament just weeks before Britain’s EU departure date faced legal challenges on Thursday following a furious outcry from pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson announced the surprise decision on Wednesday to dismiss parliament — known as proroguing — next month for nearly five weeks, claiming it was necessary to allow him to press reset and pursue a “bold and ambitious” new post-Brexit domestic agenda.

But the move sent shockwaves through the British political system, which relies on centuries of precedents and conventions instead of a codified constitution.

In a blow for Johnson, popular Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson stepped down after eight years during which she has revived her party’s fortunes.

Davidson, who supported staying in the EU, urged Johnson to clinch a deal with Brussels and mentioned the “conflict I have felt over Brexit” in her resignation letter.

Johnson’s opponents have labelled the suspension of parliament a “coup” and a “constitutional outrage.”

The move prompted immediate court bids in London, Edinburgh and Belfast to halt the process.

Gina Miller, a businesswoman and leading anti-Brexit campaigner, has applied for an urgent judicial review in London challenging “the effect and the intention” of the suspension.

“We think that this request is illegal,” said Miller, who in 2017 successfully won MPs the right to vote on formally starting to leave the EU in a court challenge.

In Scotland’s highest civil court, 75 parliamentarians are seeking an interim interdict that would halt Johnson’s move.

“It’s the advice underlying yesterday’s order which we impugn,” said Scottish National Party politician Joanna Cherry, who is heading the push.

Meanwhile, campaigner Raymond McCord launched a legal bid in Belfast to block Johnson’s move, with a hearing set for Friday.

“He’s obviously trying to circumvent parliament and we say in the context of Northern Ireland that is unconstitutional,” McCord’s lawyer Ciaran O’Hare said.

However, arch-Brexiteer minister Jacob Rees-Mogg defended the parliamentary suspension and insisted MPs would still have time to debate Brexit ahead of Britain’s Oct.31 EU departure date.

“The candyfloss of outrage, which is almost entirely confected, is from people who never wanted to leave the European Union,” he told BBC radio.

Thousands of people protested in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and other cities, while an online petition seeking to block the decision had garnered more than 1.4 million signatures on Thursday.

At the biggest rally, crowds gathered near parliament in London chanting “stop the coup” and waving EU flags.

General protests are planned outside parliament and around Britain on Saturday.

The main opposition Labour Party’s leftist faction Momentum urged members to “occupy bridges and blockade roads.”

Leftists will rally outside parliament on Tuesday demanding an immediate general election.

Queen Elizabeth II approved Johnson’s request to end what has been the longest session of parliament in nearly 400 years in the second week of September and reopen it on Oct.14 — just over two weeks before Brexit.

The House of Commons typically goes into recess around the annual party conference season, which kicks off on Sept.14 and ends on Oct.2, but critics slammed this lengthier break.

The opposition Labour Party said it would trigger an emergency debate in parliament next week to try to stop Johnson taking Britain out of the European Union without a withdrawal deal.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that as soon as parliament returns from its summer break on Tuesday, his party would initiate a process to legislate against a no-deal Brexit that he said would be damaging for the jobs and the economy.

“What we are going to do is try to politically stop him (Johnson) on Tuesday with a parliamentary process in order to legislate to prevent a no-deal Brexit and also to try and prevent him shutting down parliament in this utterly crucial period,” Corbyn told reporters.

“This country is in danger of crashing out on the Oct.31 with no deal,” he said. “We have got to stop that and that is exactly what we will be doing next Tuesday.”


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