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Parliament suspension not a matter for judges, UK Supreme Court told

London

BORIS Johnson's decision to suspend parliament is a political issue and not a matter for judges, a lawyer for the prime minister said on Wednesday as he sought to persuade the British Supreme Court that the five-week shutdown was lawful.

Mr Johnson asked Queen Elizabeth to prorogue, or suspend, parliament from Sept 10 until Oct 14, prompting accusations from opponents that he wanted to silence the legislature in the run-up to Britain's exit from the European Union on Oct 31.

James Eadie, a lawyer for Mr Johnson, told the court that the ability to prorogue parliament was a matter of politics or "high policy" which was non-justiciable, meaning it was not something judges could rule on.

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It was a matter for parliament to hold the government to account, not the courts, he said, arguing that lawmakers could hold a vote of no-confidence in the government if they wished.

"These are political judgements," he said.

The question of justiciability is likely to be key to which way the Supreme Court goes. A ruling is expected on Friday at the earliest.

Mr Johnson, who is not appearing in person at the Supreme Court, had said he needed the suspension to bring in a new legislative agenda.

Critics asserted that the real reason was to thwart parliament's efforts to stop him from leading the country out of the EU, with or without, an agreed divorce deal.

The Supreme Court began holding three days of hearings on Tuesday to decide whether Mr Johnson's advice to the queen regarding the suspension was unlawful.

A ruling against him would be a major embarrassment for Mr Johnson, who has no majority in parliament and has suffered one defeat after another in the House of Commons since taking office in July.

The Supreme Court heard from another government lawyer on Tuesday that if Mr Johnson lost the case, he could recall parliament earlier than planned.

The High Court in London ruled earlier this month that the suspension was not a judicial issue, regardless of whether it was motivated by political calculations.

However, in a conflicting judgement, Scotland's highest court said last week that the suspension was unlawful and an "egregious" attempt to stymie parliament.

Business owner and activist lawyer Gina Miller, one of the people taking legal action over the suspension, told the court on Tuesday that no other prime minister had abused the power to prorogue parliament in this way for 50 years.

At the start of Tuesday's hearing, Brenda Hale, the court's president, said the current case was a legal issue and would have no direct bearing on when and how the United Kingdom left the EU. REUTERS