LONDON (AP) – In a major blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Britain's highest court ruled on Tuesday that its decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks at the crucial Brexit deadline in the country was illegal.
The unanimous decision of the Supreme Court declared the order to suspend Parliament "null and void".
Supreme Court President Brenda Hale said the suspension "was illegal because it had the effect of thwarting or impeding Parliament's ability to perform its constitutional functions without reasonable justification."
She said the court ruling means that Parliament has never been legally suspended and technically still sitting.
In this nation without a written constitution, the case marked a rare confrontation between the prime minister, the courts and the Parliament over their rights and responsibilities.
He wondered if Johnson acted legally when he advised the queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks during a crucial period before the Brexit deadline of October 31, when Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union.
Johnson, who is in New York for the UN General Assembly, has declined to say whether he will resign if he is found to have violated the law or to try to close Parliament again.
The ruling came three days in hearings last week, before a panel of 11 judges.
The court dismissed the government's claims that the decision to suspend Parliament until October 14 was routine and unrelated to Brexit. It argued that under Britain's unwritten constitution, it is up to politicians, not the courts, to decide.
Government opponents argue that Johnson illegally closed Parliament just weeks before the country left the 28-nation bloc for the "improper purpose" of avoiding lawmakers' scrutiny of its Brexit plans.
They also accused Johnson of deceiving the queen, whose formal approval was needed to suspend the legislature.
Johnson and Parliament have been at odds since he took power in July, with a determination to remove Britain from the EU on October 31, with or without a divorce settlement with Europe.
Jill Lawless reported in New York.
Subscribe to daily newsletters
Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC.