Boris Johnson renews call for early election and says that while he disagrees with Supreme Court verdict, he will respect it
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday vowed to press ahead with his plans for Brexit on Oct. 31 despite a momentous Supreme Court ruling that found his decision to suspend parliament unlawful.
The judgment dealt a huge blow to Johnson’s authority, coming after a series of defeats in parliament that have curbed his plans to leave the European Union even if there is no divorce deal with Brussels.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, immediately announced M.P.s would reconvene on Wednesday.
The Conservative leader, who is currently in New York, told British media he “strongly disagreed” with the decision but said he would respect it. Johnson also renewed his call for an early election to end the standoff with parliament. He said it was “the obvious thing to do.”
Johnson had argued that shutting down parliament until Oct. 14 was a routine move to allow his new government to set out a new legislative program. But critics accused him of trying to silence M.P.s.
Delivering the unanimous verdict of 11 judges, Supreme Court president Brenda Hale said “the decision to advise Her Majesty [Queen Elizabeth II] to prorogue was unlawful.” She said this was “because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions.” As a result, the suspension was “void and of no effect,” Hale said, adding: “Parliament has not been prorogued.”
Bercow subsequently announced he would reconvene the Commons at 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, while the upper House of Lords said it would return the same day. The judges “have vindicated the right and duty of parliament to meet at this crucial time to scrutinize the executive,” Bercow said.
A small group of protesters outside the court hailed the decision, with one, Gareth Daniels, telling AFP: “This is a great day for democracy.”
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, led calls for the prime minister to step down. “I invite Boris Johnson, in the historic words, to consider his position, and become the shortest serving prime minister there has ever been,” he told his party’s annual conference. He brought forward his concluding speech to the meeting in Brighton, southern England, from Wednesday to Tuesday to allow him to return to parliament.
Some opposition M.P.s called for a confidence vote in Johnson, and Bercow indicated he would allow time for this if a formal request were made. But Corbyn indicated he would only table a motion of no-confidence once he was sure the Brexit Oct. 31 deadline was delayed should no compromise agreement with Brussels come through. “This crisis can only be settled with a general election,” he told a party conference. “That election needs to take place as soon as this government’s threat of a disastrous no-deal [Brexit] is taken off the table.”
Meeting the British leader on the sidelines of a United Nations meeting in New York, U.S. President Donald Trump, a strong Johnson and Brexit supporter, said it would be “terrible” if his plan for getting out of the E.U. were blocked. “It takes a man like this to get it done,” Trump said of Johnson, adding: “I think he is going to get it done.”
Opinion polls suggest Johnson’s battles with M.P.s over Brexit are actually making him more popular with voters. Johnson only took office on July 24 but has endured a torrid few weeks in office as he fights a hostile parliament over Brexit. Three years after the 2016 referendum, he insists Britain must leave the E.U. next month whatever the circumstances.
But lawmakers fear the disruptive impact of leaving without a deal, which the government itself has admitted could cause food and medicine shortages, and civil unrest.
In the week between returning from their summer holiday and prorogation on Sept. 10, M.P.s passed a law aiming to stop “no deal.” The law obliges Johnson to ask to delay Brexit by three months if he has not agreed a divorce deal by an E.U. summit on Oct. 17 and 18.
Johnson said on Tuesday he hoped he could agree new exit terms to replace those struck by his predecessor Theresa May, which was rejected by M.P.s. But E.U. leaders are not as hopeful, accusing London of failing to come up with serious alternatives to the current agreement.