The Slatest

U.K. Court Rules Boris Johnson’s Suspension of Parliament Unlawful

Boris Johnson exasperatedly runs his hands through his hair at a podium.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Dublin on Monday.
Lorraine O’Sullivan/Getty Images

The latest twist in the U.K.’s battle over Brexit comes via a Scottish court, which ruled Wednesday that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial, monthlong suspension of Parliament was unlawful. The suit brought by 75 lawmakers in response to Johnson’s decision to shutter Parliament—in effect silencing the representative body in the lead-up to the next Oct. 31 Brexit deadline—does not end the legal tussle over Johnson’s illiberal tactics, which are expected to go before the country’s Supreme Court next week.

The three-judge panel found Johnson’s decision to shut down Parliament—a customary, brief occurrence called prorogation allowing a new government to set its agenda—illegal “because it had the purpose of stymying Parliament.” “This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behavior of public authorities,” the ruling summary said. “It was to be inferred that the principal reasons for the prorogation were to prevent or impede Parliament holding the executive to account and legislating with regard to Brexit, and to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no-deal Brexit without further parliamentary interference.”

The ruling overturned an earlier decision that found the court did not have the power to intervene in the prime minister’s decision. The decision also conflicted with another ruling last week by the High Court in London, further muddying the legal waters on the issue until the Supreme Court hears the case during a scheduled three-day hearing. Adding to the extraordinary circumstances currently being weighed by the court, the ruling summary also hinted that Johnson may have deliberately misled the queen when outlining the government’s position in order to get royal assent, a formal, normally perfunctory nod to close Parliament.