Legal challenge to stop suspension of UK Parliament delayed in Scottish court

Andy Buchanan, AFP |Joanna Cherry (C), Scottish National Party (SNP) MP poses with anti-Brexit protestors outside the Court Of Session in Edinburgh, Scotland on August 30, 2019.

The first legal challenge to prevent British Prime Minister Boris Johnson from suspending Parliament amid the UK's Brexit crisis was delayed in a Scottish court on Friday.


The Court of Session in Edinburgh refused to take immediate legal action to prevent Johnson from suspending Parliament for several weeks during part of the period before the Brexit deadline of Oct. 31.

Judge Raymond Doherty, however, said a full hearing on the case would be heard Tuesday, raising the prospect that the government's move could still be blocked. He said there is no need for an immediate injunction because a "substantive" hearing on the case will be heard next week.

The full hearing had originally been set for Sept. 6, but was moved up.

Law professor Nick McKerrell at Glasgow Caledonian University said the decision to speed up the hearing may be significant because it indicates the matter is being treated with urgency.

"This is not the end of the matter," he said after the judge declined to take immediate action.

The case was brought by a cross-party group of legislators seeking to broaden the period for parliamentary debate in a bid to prevent a disorderly departure by Britain from the European Union.

Essential to uphold Brexit

Johnson, though, said it is essential that the government uphold the 2016 decision by referendum to leave the European Union.

"If we stop the UK from leaving on October 31, if that's what parliamentarians end up doing, it will do lasting damage to people's trust in politics," he told Sky News television.

"It will do lasting and catastrophic damage to the major parties in this country. This political generation won't be forgiven for failing to honour that promise."

Two other legal cases are in progress, one in Northern Ireland and another in London. Former Prime Minister John Major said Friday he is seeking to join the case in London to argue against suspension.

"If granted permission to intervene, I intend to seek to assist the court from the perspective of having served in government as a minister and prime minister, and also in Parliament for many years as a member of the House of Commons," he said.

Major is an outspoken critic of Brexit who had vowed to intervene legally if Johnson sought to prevent parliamentary debate on the issue.

The legal skirmishes are designed to prevent Johnson from substantially shortening the amount of time Parliament will be given to enact legislation that might prevent a "no-deal" Brexit, which many economists believe would damage Britain's economy.

The prime minister warned Friday that the opposition to his plans is weakening Britain's negotiating position by giving EU leaders the impression that Parliament may step in to block Brexit.

"I'm afraid that the more our friends and partners think, at the back of their mind, that Brexit could be stopped, that the UK could be kept in by Parliament, the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need," Johnson told Sky News.

Johnson has repeatedly vowed to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31 even if no arrangement has been reached. His predecessor, Theresa May, reached an agreement with EU leaders, but Britain's Parliament repeatedly rejected the terms.

On Wednesday, Johnson got Queen Elizabeth II's approval to suspend Parliament, a move widely criticized by his political opponents who see it as a maneuver to give them even less time to block a chaotic no-deal Brexit.

Johnson previously had refused to rule out such a move, but the timing of the decision took lawmakers -- many of whom are on vacation -- by surprise.

European concerns

At talks with EU foreign ministers in Finland, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that "the idea that this is some kind of constitutional outrage is nonsense. It's actually lawful. It's perfectly proper. There's precedent for it."

"We've been talking about nothing but Brexit. We're going to get a chance to scrutinize all aspects of Brexit between now and the end of October," he told reporters.

His EU counterparts expressed concern that a no-deal exit from the bloc appears more likely, but most declined to comment on the government's move, saying it is a matter for Britain to resolve.

"It's a debate that concerns the British government and Parliament," Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said. Meanwhile, he said, Britain's European partners are still waiting for new proposals to resolve the standoff over the divorce agreement, notably the so-called backstop clause which aims to avoid the return of border controls between the Republic of Ireland in the EU and Britain's Northern Ireland.

"If we receive some proposals from London, we will examine them as we always do," Reynders said.

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP)


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