Parliament has not been prorogued. Supreme Court rules prorogation unlawful and of no effect.

 

Today the Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament was unlawful and the subsequent Order in Council giving effect to it was unlawful, void and of no effect and should be quashed.

The Supreme Court  found that the lawfulness of the Prime Minister’s advice to Her Majesty is justiciable, both as regards the existence and limits of a prerogative power. A decision to advise prorogation would be unlawful if the prorogation has the effect of frustrating or preventing, without reasonable justification, the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive. This was the case here. This prolonged suspension of Parliamentary democracy took place in quite exceptional circumstances in the light of the fundamental change which was due to take place in the Constitution of the United Kingdom on 31st October.

Parliament reconvenes today, Wed 25 September.

Former Justice of the Supreme Court, Jonathan Sumption, today expressed the view, on the ‘Today’ programme, that enforcement of the Benn Act would be through proceedings being taken in the Courts and the Court appointing an individual to write the letter requesting an extension under article 50 on behalf of the Prime Minister.

 

 

England 1 Scotland 1. Brexit prorogation in the courts. Extra time now being played in the Supreme Court.

Last week in Cherry v Lord Advocate the First Division, Inner House, Court of Session [2019] CSIH 49 P680/19 held that Mr Johnson’s decision to advise the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was justiciable. The key part of the decision is quoted below.

“[91] I can see that just because a government has resorted to a procedural manoeuvre in order to achieve its purpose does not mean that there is necessarily scope for judicial review. Procedural manoeuvres are the stuff of politics, whether conducted in Parliament or in lesser bodies. However, when the manoeuvre is quite so blatantly designed “to frustrate Parliament” at such a critical juncture in the history of the United Kingdom I consider that the court may legitimately find it to be unlawful.

There are undoubted difficulties in the courts applying its supervisory jurisdiction to an exercise of the royal prerogative within the political sphere, but Mr Johnston for the respondent did not go the distance of saying that there could never be a case which would justify intervention. He accepted that a two year prorogation of Parliament might be amenable to review. Here, the prorogation is only five weeks (and it is to be borne in mind that in practice the reduction of sitting days will be less because of the traditional adjournment of Parliament during the political party conference 49 season). However, it is a lengthy prorogation at a particularly sensitive moment when time would seem to be of the essence. In my opinion Mr Mure QC for the Lord Advocate (whose analysis I accept) was right to point to the dictum of Lord Sumption in Pham v Secretary of State [2015] UKSC 19 at paras 105-106: “in reality [there is] a sliding scale, in which the cogency of the justification required for interfering with a right will be proportionate to its perceived importance and the extent of the interference”.

Here there has been interference with Parliament’s right to sit, should it wish to. The petitioners want to protect that right. If Parliament does not wish to be so protected it can decide accordingly but the petitioners want to give it the opportunity to determine whether and when it is to sit between now and 31 October. The petitioners submit that as yet Parliament has not had that opportunity, notwithstanding the legislative activity that was going on during the hearing of the reclaiming motion.

What has led me to conclude that the court is entitled to find the making of the Order unlawful is the extreme nature of the case. A formulation to which I have been attracted is found in chapter 14, Crown Powers, the Royal Prerogative and Fundamental Rights, in Wilberg & Elliott, The Scope and Intensity of Substantive Review (Hart, 2015) at p 374 where the author of the chapter, Sales LJ, as he then was, refers to a group of authorities where the courts had been prepared to review exercises of the Crown’s common law and prerogative powers. The formulation is: “these are egregious cases where there is a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities”. I see this as an egregious case. Mr O’Neill came to submit that the essence of the illegality here was irrationality (as had been the cases with the cases referred to by Sales LJ). Mr O’Neill may be right about that, although I would see it as having to do with improper purpose. At all events, I consider the Order to be unlawful and that making it was contrary to the rule of law.”

 

A contrario, the English High Court has found that the matter is one of high politics and is not justiciable.

The case is currently being heard on appeal in the Supreme Court. Eleven of the Twelve Justices of the Supreme Court are hearing the case.

Brexit in the courts. Miller loses, but Supreme Court to hear on 17 Sept.

Gina Miller’s challenge to prorogation was unsuccessful but an appeal to the Supreme Court has been scheduled for 17 Sept. The court’s reasons are to be released shortly.

With the possibility of a new PM early next week this may all become somewhat academic.

Today the House of Lords has passed the Benn bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit and it will receive the Royal Assent on Monday.

It has been revealed that a former Prime Minister has been referred to by Mr Johnson in a leaked memo as ‘a girly swot’.

A Brexit Dictionary (2). Pro rogue, or anti rogue?

 

Constitutional crisis. What would happen if Mr Johnson advised the Queen to refuse the Royal Assent to an Act of Parliament requiring he seek an extension under article 50.

Contempt of Parliament. Mr Johnson’s possible situation if he refused to abide by any Act of Parliament requiring he seek an extension under article 50. Michael Gove has refused to say whether the government would abide by legislation against no-deal Brexit, if it were passed by Parliament. A case of ‘Who GOVErns Britain’ then (c. Heath, E 1974).

Cummings. ee, American poet (1894-1962) who broke the rules of punctuation. Dominic, chief adviser and major domo to Mr Johnson.

General Election. Cannot be called until 2022 under the Fixed Term Parliament Act 2011 unless either the Government or the Opposition put forward a motion of no confidence in the government. If this is passed there are then fourteen days for an alternative government to be formed and if this is not possible Parliament will be dissolved and there will be a general election at a time specified by the Prime Minister. Alternatively, as in 2017, Parliament may be dissolved before the expiry of five years from the previous general election if there is a two thirds majority for this in the House of Commons. The opposition may not necessarily cooperate in which case there could be no ‘snap election’ for Mr Johnson, but Mr Corbyn might have to accept the soubriquet ‘frit’ (c Thatcher, M).

GNU. A Wildebeest, celebrated in song by Flanders and Swann.  Alternatively, a Government of National Unity.

Interdict. Scottish for ‘injunction’. This was refused on Friday in the current proceedings in Scotland challenging the legality of the prorogation of Parliament by Mr Johnson, but the hearing of the proceedings has been advanced to this Tuesday. Gina Miller has launched a separate application for judicial review of Mr Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament to be heard on Thursday. Today’s ‘Times’ reports that space has been made for the Supreme Court to hear the inevitable appeal this coming Friday. A further application is before the court in Northern Ireland. A busy week for the judiciary.

Labour votes. What Mr Johnson may need to get a new withdrawal agreement through Parliament (see ‘Spartans’ below).

No deal Brexit, ways of stopping.

  1. Mr Johnson renegotiates a withdrawal agreement and seeks an extension from the EU under article 50 to get Parliament’s approval.
  2. Article 50 is revoked. Must be done by a PM so need a new PM via Vote of No Confidence (VONC).
  3. An extension to article 50 is sought. Must be done by a PM so need a new PM via VONC.
  4. Act of Parliament requiring PM to seek further specified extension under article 50 and to revoke article 50 if the EU had not given the extension sought by 30 October. See, too, contempt of parliament, constitutional crisis.

Making your mind up. Rare Eurovision win for UK in 1981. Alternatively, something Parliament was incapable of doing in the indicative votes in the Spring.

Rebel Alliance. Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia (still fighting the same enemy thirty odd years after their decisive victory).  Alternatively, Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve, Anna Soubry etc

Spartans.  Members of the European Reform Group who are likely to vote against any new withdrawal agreement negotiated with the EU by Mr Johnson.

Standing Order 24

From Parliament’s website

“An MP may apply to the Speaker for an emergency debate on Mondays to Thursdays during sitting time under the rules of Standing Order No. 24.

If the Speaker has given the MP leave they will have three minutes to make a speech after question time and any urgent questions or ministerial statements. The Speaker then decides whether to submit the application to the House.

The House will have to agree that the debate takes place. If the House agrees to the application the emergency debate will take place on a future day, usually the next sitting day. The motion to be debated will be “That the House has considered the matter of [Topic]”.

Expect Speaker Bercow to allow an emergency debate on a bill requiring the PM to apply to the EU for an extension under art.50.

TBP. The Brexit Party.  Hovering in the wings.

 

 

The Brexit dictionary.

 

P is for prorogue.

This is the action of discontinuing a session of a parliament or other legislative assembly without dissolving it. The Prime Minister, Mr Johnson, has today announced his intention to ask the Queen to prorogue Parliament in the second week of September ahead of a Queen’s Speech on 14 October.

Other notable proroguers have been Charles I, James II, Clement Attlee, and John Major.

Last month Lord Doherty in the Scottish Court of Session fast-tracked a legal challenge backed by 75 MPs and peers to prevent the Prime Minister Mr Johnson proroguing parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. A hearing is scheduled for the end of the next week and in the meantime Jolyon Maugham QC who is representing the challengers has stated that he will be seeking an order that the prospective prorogation of Parliament for four and a half weeks from 11 September announced today be put on hold until after the result of that hearing.

S is for Supreme Court

Which is where this will probably end up.

Brexit. UK to exit with no deal on 31 October unless Parliament passes vote of no confidence in the government.

With the resignation of Mrs May and the end of any prospect of Parliament passing the withdrawal agreement reached with the EU last November, it is looking very likely that the UK will leave the EU with no deal on 31 October. This is the default position under the EU Withdrawal Act 2018. Analysis by Maddy Thimont of the Institute of Government shows that the only way a no-deal exit could be stopped would be by Parliament passing a vote of no-confidence in the government. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/blog/new-prime-minister-intent-no-deal-brexit-cant-be-stopped-mps-0

The ‘Cooper’ clause added to the 2018 Act would only have effect in relation to any proposed ratification of the proposed withdrawal agreement with the EU. The clause in the 2018 Act requiring required the Government to hold a vote in the Commons if no agreement had been reached with the EU by 21 January is somewhat time expired now.

Who’d want to be PM now?

PM gets extension to article 50.

 

The EU last night agreed to extend the period referred to in Article 50 as follows.

Conclusions – 10 April 2019
EUCO XT 20015/19 1
EN
1. The European Council takes note of the letter of Prime Minister Theresa May of 5 April 2019 asking for a further extension of the period referred to in Article 50(3) TEU.
2. In response, the European Council agrees to an extension to allow for the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement. Such an extension should last only as long as necessary and, in any event, no longer than 31 October 2019. If the Withdrawal Agreement is ratified by both parties before this date, the withdrawal will take place on the first day of the following month.
3. The European Council underlines that the extension cannot be allowed to undermine the regular functioning of the Union and its institutions. If the UK is still a Member of the EU on 23-26 May 2019 and if it has not ratified the Withdrawal Agreement by 22 May 2019, it must hold the elections to the European Parliament in accordance with Union law. If the United Kingdom fails to live up to this obligation, the withdrawal will take place on 1 June 2019.
4. The European Council reiterates that there can be no opening of the Withdrawal Agreement, and that any unilateral commitment, statement or other act should be compatible with the letter and the spirit of the Withdrawal Agreement and must not hamper its implementation.
5. The European Council stresses that such an extension cannot be used to start negotiations on the future relationship. However, if the position of the United Kingdom were to evolve, the European Council is prepared to reconsider the Political Declaration on the future relationship in accordance with the positions and principles stated in its guidelines and statements, including as regards the territorial scope of the future relationship.
6. The European Council notes that, during the extension, the United Kingdom will remain a Member State with full rights and obligations in accordance with Article 50 TEU, and that the United Kingdom has a right to revoke its notification at any time.

 

Accordingly, provided Parliament approves the necessary statutory instrument to amend ‘exit day’ in the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 in time, the UK will not leave the EU at 11pm  on 12 April 2019. The requisite SI is The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 (Exit Day)
(Amendment) (No. 2) Regulations 2019.

Is half a deal better than a no-deal exit in a fortnight? Parliament votes today.

29 March. The government today is putting forward a motion to pass part of its withdrawal agreement with the EU, the withdrawal agreement, but not the political declaration. If this passes there will be an extension to exit day to 22 May in accordance with the agreement reached between the PM and the EU last week. If not, exit day will be 12 April unless a further extension is requested by the PM, whoever that may be. In the meantime Parliament votes again on indicative votes on Monday after the failure of any of the proposals put forward on Wednesday to obtain a majority.

 

MPs  voted by 286 to 344 to reject the government’s withdrawal agreement.

 

9 April. The House of Commons has just approved the government motion that the Prime Minister requests an article 50 extension until 30 June. Leaders of the 27 EU Member States will consider the request tomorrow at the meeting of the  Council of Ministers. If there is no unanimous agreement to extend article 50 then the UK leaves the EU without a withdrawal agreement on Friday at 11pm.

Brexit. Parliament takes control of the process but no deal exit on 12 April still a real possibility.

Last night MPs voted to take control of the Brexit process, and indicative votes will be held on Wednesday to endeavour to find a majority view in Parliament as to what form Brexit should take. This cannot affect the withdrawal process but can only give guidance as to the future negotiation after withdrawal of the relationship between the EU and the UK.

The PM stated she would introduce a statutory instrument to amend ‘exit day’ in the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 and this would be laid on Wednesday, so no exit on 29 March. Mrs Leadsom has now stated that this will take place after the indicative votes on Wednesday.

A further extension beyond 12 April can only be granted if the PM asks for one.  If the withdrawal agreement is passed then the extension would be to 22 May. If not then the UK would leave the EU on that date. It is possible that this might be forestalled by a vote of no confidence in the government followed by the appointment of a temporary PM with the mandate of requesting a further extension and ensuring the UK participates in the elections to the European Parliament on 23 May.

Brexit. UK leaves EU on 29 March?

Yes, unless ‘exit day’ in the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 is amended by statutory instrument. The procedure for this is set out here https://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/blog/changing-eu-exit-day-by-statutory-instrument. This states “Normally, from laying to making the SI, the draft affirmative procedure takes around six weeks.

However, given the steps outlined above, the process could be accelerated. We see no insuperable procedural obstacle to proceedings on the ‘exit day’ SI being completed by 29 March if the draft SI were laid, for example, on Friday 22 or Monday 25 March.”

 

No draft SI has yet been laid.