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UK court annuls parliament suspension in blow to Johnson
ELEVEN judges of the UK's Supreme Court have ruled unanimously that Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully when he advised Queen Elizabeth to suspend parliament just weeks before Brexit.
It has therefore stated that parliament has not been "prorogued" or suspended and can sit immediately.
"The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification," Supreme Court president Brenda Hale said. "This court has already concluded that the prime minister's advice to Her Majesty was unlawful, void and of no effect. Parliament has not been prorogued. This is the unanimous judgement of all 11 justices."
Mr Johnson, currently attending the UN General Assembly in New York, stated before the ruling that he would not resign. After the ruling was announced, he told reporters: "As the law currently stands, the UK leaves the EU on Oct 31 come what may but the exciting thing for us now is to get a good deal - and that is what we are working on.
"And to be honest, it is not made much easier by this kind of stuff in parliament or in the courts. Obviously, getting a deal is not made much easier against this background but we are going to get on and do it."
Following a full house of voting losses in parliament, including two motions for a general election ahead of the Brexit date of Oct 31, Mr Johnson's authority has been seriously weakened.
Surprisingly, sterling hardly moved against the US dollar and other currencies and remains above its recent lows. The stock market was also virtually unchanged even though there is an increasing risk that the minority government could lose the election, when it takes place. The markets appear to be taking the view that Labour, the main opposition party under Jeremy Corbyn, is as disunited as the Conservatives. An alternative view is that Labour could form a left-wing alliance with the Scottish Nationalists (SNP) with the Liberal Democrats in unofficial support.
The Tories need to carry on with Brexit and are hoping that Mr Johnson, despite his setbacks, can forge a deal. However, they need the support of the Brexit Party.
Nigel Farage, head of the Brexit Party, which won a large bloc of seats in the European Parliament, has described Mr Johnson's suspension move as "the worst political decision ever". He believes that Dominic Cummings, Mr Johnson's controversial adviser, should resign.
The prime minister's next obstacle is a law designed to stop a no-deal Brexit on Oct 31. If a deal is not agreed between the UK and the EU by Oct 19, and MPs don't vote in favour of leaving with no deal, then Mr Johnson will be legally obliged to ask the EU for a Brexit delay.
David Frost, the prime minister's lead Brexit negotiator, and Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay have been meeting EU officials. Mr Johnson is frantically lobbying EU leaders in New York.
Soon after the Supreme Court judgement, Speaker John Bercow said that parliament can convene on Wednesday. Anna Soubry, a former Conservative minister who resigned from the party and heads "Change", a small group of rebel MPs, has called for a second referendum on Brexit. This is also the desire of the Scottish Nationalists and the Green Party. The Liberal Democrats, who want to remain in the EU, have called for revocation of Article 50, the law that Brexit must take place.
The government had suspended parliament from Sept 10 to Oct 14. The prorogation was approved by the Queen. As a politically neutral head of state, the Queen acted on the advice of the prime minister as she is required to do under the country's unwritten constitution.
"This is a huge victory for the rule of law and for democracy," said Joanna Cherry, SNP MP and leader of the group of politicians who first brought a Scottish case against the government's suspension. "The courts have decided that it has long been the law in England and indeed in Scotland that the government is subjected to parliamentary scrutiny by Members of Parliament elected by the people. That is a decision in law, not a political decision... the Supreme Court simply made it possible for us to get back in there and hold this government accountable."
She added that Mr Johnson's position was "untenable".