LONDON • Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful and should be annulled, Scotland's highest court of appeal ruled yesterday in a damning verdict on the British leader's reasons for the shutdown.
Parliament was prorogued - suspended - on Monday until Oct 14, a move opponents argued was designed to thwart their attempts to scrutinise his plans for leaving the European Union and allow him to push through a no-deal Brexit on Oct 31.
"You cannot break the law with impunity, Boris Johnson," said Ms Joanna Cherry, the Scottish National Party lawmaker who led the challenge. "We are calling for Parliament to be recalled immediately," she told Sky News after the unanimous verdict by three judges at Scotland's Court of Session.
Mr Johnson's office said the government would appeal to the Supreme Court, the highest judicial body in the United Kingdom.
It was not immediately clear what effect the ruling would have.
A government official said Mr Johnson believed Parliament remained suspended, pending a ruling by the Supreme Court.
Mr Johnson announced on Aug 28 that Parliament would be prorogued, saying the government wanted the suspension so it could then launch a new legislative agenda. Opponents said the real reason was to shut down debate and challenges to his Brexit plans.
AGAINST THE LAW
You cannot break the law with impunity, Boris Johnson. We are calling for Parliament to be recalled immediately.
MS JOANNA CHERRY, the Scottish National Party lawmaker who led the challenge.
The court was shown documents that showed Mr Johnson was considering prorogation weeks before he formally asked Queen Elizabeth II to suspend the legislature.
"The UK government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda," a government spokesman said in response to yesterday's ruling. "Proroguing Parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this."
However, in an excoriating judgment, the Scottish judges ruled the principal reason for suspension was to stymie lawmakers and allow Mr Johnson to pursue a no-deal Brexit policy. "This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities," concluded Judge Philip Brodie, according to a summary of the court verdict.
Judge James Drummond Young had determined that "the only inference that could be drawn was that the UK government and the Prime Minister wished to restrict Parliament", the summary said.
"The Court will accordingly make an Order declaring that the Prime Minister's advice to HM (Her Majesty) the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and is thus null and of no effect."
Ms Cherry and other lawmakers, including some parliamentarians who were thrown out of Mr Johnson's Conservative Party for rebelling over Brexit, said Parliament should be recalled without delay. Former Conservative member Dominic Grieve said if Mr Johnson had misled the Queen over the reasons for prorogation, he should resign.
Asked whether Mr Johnson had misled the monarch, his spokesman said they had publicly given their reasons for the suspension.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment on the ruling, saying it was a matter for the government.
A Lower Scottish Court had originally rejected the challenge and last Friday, London's High Court also dismissed a similar challenge.
In their full ruling, the judges ruled the issue was not a matter for the courts. An appeal in that case is due to be heard next Tuesday in the Supreme Court.