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Suspension of Parliament unlawful, rules UK Supreme Court

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Suspension of Parliament unlawful, rules UK Supreme Court

Lady Hale

(LONDON) - The prorogation of Britain's Parliament by prime minister Boris Johnson was unlawful, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a huge setback for the prime minister and his no-deal Brexit strategy.

In their ruling, eleven of the most senior judges in the United Kingdom have - unanimously and unexpectedly - given the strongest possible condemnation of Mr Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament and in so doing have upheld the position of Parliament's sovereignty.

Earlier this month Mr Johnson had suspended - or prorogued - Parliament for five weeks, suggesting this was needed to allow a Queen's Speech to outline his new policies.

Opponents however argued that the prorogation had the effect of suspending accountability of the executive, at a crucial time with regard to Brexit and Mr Johnson's attempt to leave the European Union - with or without a deal - on 31 October against the wishes of Parliament.

The UK's highest court has now said it was wrong to stop Parliament carrying out its duties. "The effect on the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme," said the Court's president Lady Hale.

"The Court is bound to conclude, therefore, that 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."

She added that the unanimous decision of the 11 justices was that Parliament had not in fact been prorogued. The decision, according to the Court, "was null and of no effect - and it was for the Speakers of the House of Commons and Lords to decide what to do next."

In fact, Speaker of the Commons John Bercow has now announced that Parliament is to resume tomorrow morning.

Mr Johnson is now under growing pressure to resign, with opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at his party conference calling on the prime minister to "consider his position".

What this might mean for Brexit is unclear.

To comply with the wishes of Parliament, if Mr Jonhson does not agree a deal with the EU by 19 October, the prime minister will legally be obliged to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit.

MEP Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator welcomed the ruling in a tweet: "At least one big relief in the Brexit saga: the rule of law in the UK is alive & kicking. Parliaments should never be silenced in a real democracy." He added: "I never want to hear Boris Johnson or any other Brexiteer say again that the European Union is undemocratic."

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