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’.