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As Brexit Nears, British MPs Are Fighting To Keep U.K. Parliament Open

A legal challenge aimed at stopping British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of U.K. parliament has been denied an interim interdict at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

A cross-party group of British MPs and peers filed a petition at Scotland’s highest civil court earlier this summer aimed at stopping the prime minister from being able to prorogue parliament.

They called for an interim interdict on Thursday to halt prorogation until a final decision has been made on the case.

On Friday, Judge Lord Doherty dismissed the action ahead of a full hearing originally set for Sept. 6.

“I’m not satisfied that it has been demonstrated that there’s a need for an interim suspension or an interim interdict to be granted at this stage,” Doherty said.

“A substantive hearing is set to place for Friday, September 6, before the first possible date parliament could be prorogued.” 

Aiden O’Neill, representing those for the action, argued for the substantive hearing to be moved forward.

He said: “There is an urgency to this — any delay is prejudicial — not just to the prejudice of the petitioners, but to the country as a whole.”

The hearing was then moved up from Sept. 6 to Sept. 3 in the “interest of justice.”

Doherty said: “I’m going to move the substantive hearing forward to Tuesday.

“Weighing consideration in the balance, it’s in the interest of justice that it proceeds sooner rather than later.”

A request was also made by the petitioners that Johnson issue a legally-binding statement to the court, known as an “affidavit,” over his reasons for the suspension.

75 MPs, including me, have put forward a legal challenge to the PM’s #Parliamentshutdown. Although the judge has refused a temporary halt to the Prime Minister’s plans, I welcome the news that the full hearing has been brought forward to Tuesday next week. https://t.co/TCgA3O2doI

— Jo Swinson (@joswinson) August 30, 2019

This is not automatically granted, but if it were to be, the prime minister could potentially be called to face cross-examination.

A government spokeswoman said: “As we have set out, the government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda, and MPs are not prevented from scrutinizing our withdrawal from the EU.

“We are glad the court found against the interdict — there was no good reason to seek one, given the full hearing is due to take place next week, and the process of bringing the session to an end will not start until the week commencing 9 September.” 

It is disappointing that we have to go to the courts to protect British democracy.British Labour MP Ian Murray

Labour MP Ian Murray, who is backing the legal action, said: “This verdict means a full hearing has been fast-tracked to next week, which is now the most important week in modern British history.

“It is disappointing that we have to go to the courts to protect British democracy, but Boris Johnson’s attempt to silence the people’s representatives cannot go unchallenged.

“As well as this legal battle in the Court of Session, the campaign against a no-deal Brexit will also take place in the House of Commons.

“We must work tirelessly, across all parties and none, to fight against the devastation of a no-deal Brexit, fight for our democracy, and fight for the people to have a final say on Brexit.”

Record-breaking session to end

The challenge was launched after the Queen approved Johnson’s request for parliament to be suspended for five weeks from Sept. 10.

The prime minister said on Wednesday that parliament had to be prorogued so he could set out his government’s new legislative agenda in a Queen’s speech and bring to an end the record-breaking session, which has lasted for more than two years.

But MPs and others opposed to Johnson’s Brexit strategy have said he is trying to limit their ability to stop the U.K. leaving the European Union without a deal.

Meanwhile, a court in Northern Ireland will also hear from lawyers representing anti-no-deal campaigners challenging the move and attempt to do the same at the High Court in London is also underway.

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