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British Parliament reconvenes after court rules Boris Johnson unlawfully suspended it
[LONDON] Prime Minister Boris Johnson flew home Wednesday to face a House of Commons filled with hooting and harrumphing lawmakers, as further calls rang out for his resignation, and Parliament reconvened to resume its seemingly endless quarreling over Brexit.
"Colleagues, welcome back to our place of work!" bellowed the John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, to cheers from the benches.
Lawmakers were back in their green leather seats following a bombshell ruling by Britain's Supreme Court on Tuesday that said Mr Johnson's controversial suspension of Parliament was "null and void." The high court also said the advice that Mr Johnson gave Queen Elizabeth II to suspend - or prorogue - Parliament was "unlawful" and designed to stymie debate, scrutiny and legislating.
And so Parliament returned to its business, with opposition legislators condemning Mr Johnson as a reckless abuser of democracy and clamoring for information from the government about true motives behind the prime minister's decision to shutter Westminster Palace for five weeks.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox defended the suspension. "At all times the government acted in good faith and the belief that our approach was lawful and constitutional," he declared.
This assertion was answered by a chorus of audible grumbling.
Mr Cox brushed aside calls for his own ouster, saying, "If I was was called upon to resign every time I lost a case, I'd never have a practice."
Then Mr Cox exploded at lawmakers who have prevented the government from holding an early election to break the gridlock. "This is a dead Parliament . . . It has no moral right to sit on these green benches," he said, prompting wild cheering and jeering.
"But the time is coming," he warned, his booming voice rising above the din. "The time is coming, Mr. Speaker, when even these turkeys won't be able to prevent Christmas!"
The government's message was, yes, it lost in the Supreme Court, the matter is settled, and so let's move on.
But move on to where?
Most likely, the British Parliament will return to what it does best, which is disagree about Brexit.
The House of Commons recently voted against an immediate general election.,It has voted against then-Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal three times. It has opposed options dubbed no Brexit, hard Brexit and soft Brexit, and voted against staging a second referendum on whether to stay in the European Union or leave it. The only thing the lawmakers have agreed upon is that Britain will not leave the EU at the end of October without a proper withdrawal agreement - which is exactly what Mr Johnson threatens to do.
Earlier this month, a so-called rebel alliance of politicians hastily passed legislation that requires Mr Johnson to ask the EU on Oct 19 for a three-month delay in implementing Brexit, if the two sides have not struck a deal.
Mr Johnson has vowed he will not seek a delay and repeatedly has promised that Britain will leave the European Union - deal or no deal, "do or die" - on Oct 31.
The numbers in Parliament do not suggest a way forward. Mr Johnson's Conservative Party government has lost its paper-thin majority and is running on fumes.
Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition Labour Party, told BBC Radio that Mr Johnson should apologize to the British public and to the queen, whose advice he sought in shuttering Parliament.
But Mr Corbyn added that he would not call for a vote of no confidence - which could lead to the government's downfall - until it is "very clear" that Britain will not careen out of the European Union at the end of October with no deal.
"He's proven time and again he can't be trusted," said Jo Swinson, leader of the ascendant Liberal Democrats, who have staked out a firm anti-Brexit stance.
Ms Swinson said politicians "simply cannot afford to wait until the 19th of October to see whether or not the prime minister will refuse to obey the law again." She suggested that opposition politicians would try to find new ways to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
In a scathing editorial, the Financial Times, said it was "refreshing that judges saw through Downing Street's skulduggery." The establishment newspaper called on Mr Johnson to step down.
"Faced with such a damning judgment, any premier with a shred of respect for British democracy and the responsibilities of his office would resign," the editorial said.
Despite his devastating defeat at the Supreme Court, however, there were no signs that Mr Johnson was considering such a step.
"Anybody other than Johnson would surely resign immediately, but Johnson is not like any other prime minister in my lifetime," said Iain McLean, a senior research fellow at Oxford University.
Mr Johnson is not going anywhere, his aides say. Except Parliament, where he may appear Wednesday afternoon.