Cheering Remainers chant ‘Gina, Gina, Gina!’ as anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller arrives at Supreme Court hearing into claims that Boris Johnson LIED to the Queen about why he was suspending Parliament
Arch-remainer Gina Miller was clapped and cheered by fans outside the Supreme Court today as the landmark Brexit legal battle over Boris Johnson’s decision to shut down Parliament for five weeks started this morning.
11 judges will have the final say on whether the Prime Minister broke the law and misled the Queen in a ruling that could influence whether Britain leaves the EU on October 31.
Outside the London court today dozens of anti-Brexit protesters gathered and chanted ‘Gina, Gina, Gina’ as pro-EU figurehead Ms Miller arrived.
On the steps the millionaire businesswoman said her legal team would do their ‘best’ to win and when asked if the courts should intervene in political decisions she added: ‘If there is an overarching [misuse] of power, yes’.
One supporter wore a Boris Johnson-style wig and an Incredible Hulk costume while carrying an ‘Incredible Sulk’ placard to lampoon the PM’s claim he will channel the superhero to ensure Brexit happens in 44 days’ time. He was later arrested by another remainer protester dressed as RoboCop.
Over the next three days Britain’s highest court will hear an appeal case launched by arch-remainers where supporters including former Tory prime minister Sir John Major will argue that Mr Johnson is trying to ‘stymy’ scrutiny of his Brexit policy to force through No Deal.
Judges will also rule on an appeal by the Government against a ruling by Scottish justices who said shutting down Parliament for five weeks is unlawful.
Supreme Court President Lady Hale made an opening statement and said their ruling would be ‘without fear or favour’ and ‘will not determine when and how the UK leaves the EU.’ She added: ‘This is a serious and difficult question and is demonstrated by three senior judges in Scotland reaching a different conclusion to three senior judges in London. This is what the Supreme Court is for’.
Gina Miller’s barrister Lord Pannick QC then told the court: ‘The exceptional length of the prorogation in this case is strong evidence that the Prime Minister’s motive was to silence Parliament for that (five-week) period because he sees Parliament as an obstacle to the furtherance of his political aims’
The Prime Minister said last night it was ‘claptrap’ that he had stopped MPs having their say on Brexit and said a Queen’s Speech was required to end the longest Parliamentary session since the English civil war ended in 1651.
What the 11 Supreme Court judges finally decide will have huge implications for Boris Johnson’s premiership.
Over the next three days the Supreme Court in London will hear appeals from two separate challenges brought in England and Scotland to the prorogation of Parliament and will return verdicts on both by next week.
On the same day last week an Edinburgh court ruled it was unlawful while the High Court in London disagreed and said the decision was ‘purely political’.
The justices, led by president Lady Hale, will grapple with whether the PM’s decision about the length of the prorogation is not a matter for the courts – or unlawful.
At the start of today’s hearing Lady Hale emphasised that the case is only about whether the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen was lawful.
She said: ‘That this is a serious and difficult question of law is amply demonstrated by the fact that three senior judges in Scotland have reached a different conclusion from three senior judges in England and Wales.
‘The Supreme Court exists to decide such difficult questions of law and we shall do so in accordance with our judicial oaths – to do right by all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.
‘It is important to emphasise that we are not concerned with the wider political issues which form the context for this legal issue.
‘As will be apparent when we hear the legal arguments, the determination of this legal issue will not determine when and how the UK leaves the European Union.’
Outside an outnumbered pro-Brexit supporter shouting ‘we voted to leave’ was ushered away from anti-Brexit protesters outside the court.
As he walked away, the man shouted ‘we want our country back’ and ‘democracy deniers’ at the crowd.
The Prime Minister has refused to deny that he could ignore any ruling from the courts to force through Brexit.
He told the BBC last night he had the ‘greatest respect for the judiciary’ and asked if he would recall MPs if he lost the case he added: ‘I think the best thing I could do is wait and see what the judges say.’
Mr Johnson says the five-week suspension is to allow the Government to set out a new legislative agenda in a Queen’s Speech when MPs return to Parliament on October 14.
But those who brought legal challenges against the Prime Minister’s decision argue the prorogation is designed to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s impending exit from the EU on October 31.
The Supreme Court, which will sit as a panel of 11 justices for only the second time in its 10-year history, must reconcile contradictory judgments issued by the English and Scottish courts.
Robert Buckland, Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, failed to rule out a second bid to prorogue Parliament in October.
Asked whether it was remotely conceivable that Mr Johnson could suspend Parliament again, Mr Buckland told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘Harold Wilson said a week is a long time in politics, it seems like an hour is a long time in politics at the moment, and for me to sit here and imagine what might happen at the end of October, I think is idle.
‘What I do know is if we are able to, we will have a Queen’s Speech in October, there will be debate during that time and a vote as well, perhaps a series of votes, and I think Parliament has already shown its power.’
SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, who led the cross-party group in the action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, said she is ‘cautiously optimistic’ that the ruling by the Scottish judges will stand.
She told BBC Radio Scotland: ‘I think that Scotland’s supreme court reached the right decision here for the right reasons and I’m cautiously optimistic that at least a majority of the UK Supreme Court justices will follow.’
Veteran broadcaster David Dimbleby was outside the Supreme Court to speak to those queueing to get into the hearing.
Mr Dimbleby said: ‘I lived through Suez, the miners’ strike, I lived through the poll tax debate and the trouble then. I lived through the Iraq demonstrations – I’ve never seen the country so divided as this.’
He added: ‘The next six weeks are clearly critical. I’ve never known the country so seriously riven by argument.’
Mr Dimbleby said the case was ‘not just dramatic – it’s really, really important for all our futures’.
He continued: ‘The Prime Minister is accused of lying to the Queen – let’s put it bluntly – and getting Parliament suspended without good reason and that’s big potatoes, it has to be.’
Last week the High Court in London dismissed the case brought by businesswoman and campaigner Gina Miller – who previously brought a successful legal challenge against the Government over the triggering of the Article 50 process to start the Brexit countdown – finding that the length of the prorogation was ‘purely political’.
Giving reasons for their ruling on September 11, three of the most senior judges in England and Wales said: ‘We concluded that the decision of the Prime Minister was not justiciable (capable of challenge). It is not a matter for the courts.’
But, on the same day, the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that Mr Johnson’s decision was unlawful because ‘it was motivated by the improper purpose of stymying Parliament’.
Lord Carloway, Scotland’s most senior judge, said: ‘The circumstances demonstrate that the true reason for the prorogation is to reduce the time available for parliamentary scrutiny of Brexit at a time when such scrutiny would appear to be a matter of considerable importance, given the issues at stake.’
Following that ruling, a Downing Street source suggested the MPs and peers who brought the legal challenge ‘chose the Scottish courts for a reason’ – prompting criticism from Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who branded the comments ‘deeply dangerous’, as well as Justice Secretary Robert Buckland.
Mrs Miller’s challenge was supported by former prime minister Sir John Major, shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti and the Scottish and Welsh governments, who are all interveners in the Supreme Court case.
A cross-party group of around 75 MPs and peers, led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, was responsible for the Scottish challenge and the appeal against the Court of Session’s decision is being brought by the Advocate General for Scotland, on behalf of the Westminster Government.
Victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord – who brought separate proceedings in Belfast, arguing that a no-deal Brexit would damage the Northern Ireland peace process – has also been given permission to intervene in the Supreme Court case.
In a statement ahead of the hearing, Mrs Miller said: ‘As with my first case, my Supreme Court case is about pushing back against what is clearly a dramatic overreach of executive power.
‘This is an issue that cuts across the political divides – and the arguments about the EU – and it has united remainers and leavers and people of all political complexions and none in opposition to it.
‘The precedent Mr Johnson will set – if this is allowed to stand – is terrifying: any prime minister trying to push through a policy that is unpopular in the House and in the country at large would from now on simply be able to resort to prorogation.
‘No one could ever have envisaged it being used in this way: this is a classic power-grab.’
She added: ‘The reason given for the prorogation was patently untrue and, since then, the refusal to come clean or provide any of the disclosures we have asked for has compounded the deception.
‘It is my view – and the view of a great many others – that Mr Johnson has gone too far and put our parliamentary sovereignty and democracy in grave danger by his actions.’
Mr Johnson advised the Queen on August 28 to prorogue Parliament for five weeks from the week of September 9.
The Supreme Court judges will hear submissions from the parties and interveners from Tuesday to Thursday, but it is not clear when they will give a ruling.
Yesterday, another former Tory prime minister, David Cameron, accused Mr Johnson of ‘sharp practice’ for proroguing Parliament.
But Mr Johnson said it was ‘claptrap’ for people to say he had stopped MPs having their say on Brexit.
He told the BBC: ‘All this mumbo jumbo about how Parliament is being deprived of the opportunity to scrutinise Brexit. What a load of claptrap. Actually, Parliament I think has lost about four or five days.’
And senior Tories last night claimed that the Prime Minister is ready to ignore a controversial law pushed through Parliament forcing him to seek another Brexit delay if a deal is not reached by October 19 – even if it means he is dragged to court.
Mr Johnson yesterday said another extension would be ‘crackers’ and insisted the law would not stop him taking the UK out of the EU next month – with or without a deal.
Eleven supreme court justices will today begin to hear the claim that Mr Johnson acted unlawfully in advising the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks in order to stifle debate over the Brexit crisis.
Documents published by the Supreme Court yesterday show how the Prime Minister’s team will argue decisions to prorogue are a matter of ‘high policy’ and not law – meaning the courts should not intervene. They revealed Sir John will make an ‘oral intervention’ for up to 20 minutes on Thursday. The former prime minister is listed as an ‘intervener’ on Miss Miller’s case, alongside Labour’s Baroness Chakrabarti.
Miss Miller’s written case said: ‘The Prime Minister’s advice to Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for a period of five weeks is an unlawful abuse of power, because there has been no prorogation for longer than three weeks in the past 40 years and prorogation is typically for a week or less.
‘To prorogue Parliament for such a lengthy period removes the ability of Parliament to take such action as it sees fit… relating to the arrangements for the UK to leave the EU when time is very much of the essence…’
It adds that Mr Johnson’s reasons for advising the prorogation were ‘improper’ and influenced by ‘his concern that Parliament might take steps which would undermine the Government’s negotiating position with the EU’.
The case will be led in court by Lord Pannick, who led Miss Miller’s previous successful case forcing the Government to give MPs a vote on triggering Article 50.
The documents reveal Mr Johnson’s case is that the claims are ‘non-justiciable’ – meaning they are not within the scope of the courts.
The PM’s case points out that MPs could have legislated to ensure that Parliament continued to sit during the prorogation – but it did not do so.
And it highlighted that the Queen is under no obligation to accept the advice of the Prime Minister.