Parliament Suspension 2019

Gina Miller: “My legal team and I will not give up the fight for democracy”

A legal challenge over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament has been rejected in the High Court.

The case was brought by businesswoman Gina Miller, who argued the move was “an unlawful abuse of power”.

Rejecting Ms Miller’s case, Lord Justice Burnett said she could immediately appeal because of the important points of law at stake.

The appeal is expected to be heard at the Supreme Court on 17 September.

Ms Miller said she was “very disappointed with the judgment”.

She added: “We feel it is absolutely vital that Parliament should be sitting. We are therefore pleased that the judges have given us permission to appeal to the Supreme Court, which we will be doing, and they feel that our case has the merit to be handed up.”

A similar legal challenge was rejected at Edinburgh’s Court of Session, earlier this week.

Following an appeal, judges at Scotland’s highest civil court said on Friday a decision would not be made before Wednesday.

    The prime minister announced on 28 August he wanted to shut down Parliament, a process known as proroguing, for five weeks ahead of a Queen’s Speech on 14 October.

    His political opponents argued at the time that Mr Johnson’s aim was to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and to stop them passing legislation that would prevent the UK leaving the European Union without a deal on 31 October.

    The UK government insisted this was not the case and said the aim of proroguing Parliament was to allow Mr Johnson to set out his legislative plans in the Queen’s Speech while still allowing sufficient time for MPs to debate Brexit.

      A bill designed to prevent a no-deal Brexit has since been passed by MPs and, is expected to gain royal assent, before the shutdown next week.

      President of the Queen's Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton (left to right)
      Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, centre, President of the Queen’s Bench Division Dame Victoria Sharp and Master of the Rolls Sir Terence Etherton heard the case in London

      In 2017, Gina Miller won a case which stopped ministers triggering the Article 50 process – by which the UK leaves the EU – without a vote in Parliament.

      The latest case brought by Ms Miller was supported by a number of other parties, including former prime minister Sir John Major.

      During the hearing, Lord Pannick QC said prorogation breached the legal principle of Parliamentary sovereignty.

      He said the PM’s decision was “extraordinary” – both because of the “exceptional length” of the suspension and because Parliament would be “silenced” during the critical period leading up to the 31 October deadline.

      Mr Johnson’s lawyers argued prorogation was a political, not a legal, matter.

      Rejecting the case, Lord Burnett said: “We have concluded that, whilst we should grant permission to apply for judicial review, the claim must be dismissed.”

      The three judges are expected to give their reasons for dismissing the case in writing next week.

      We don’t know why Gina Miller lost, but we have an idea of what will be before the Supreme Court.

      Ms Miller’s team accepts Boris Johnson can ask the Queen to shut down Parliament.

      But they argued an exceptional five-week prorogation was an abuse of his executive powers.

      The problem in challenging that in court is that judges are there to enforce the law.

      The government argues that the law is silent on how long a prorogation should be and that it doesn’t help the court judge whether Parliament actually wants to sit, or what would constitute “sufficient” time for considering Brexit – or indeed whether the entire affair is simply a giant political argument that’s no business of M’Lords and Ladies at all.

      And that’s why the case is heading to the Supreme Court.

      What other legal challenges are taking place?

      Joanna Cherry
      SNP MP Joanna Cherry has led the legal challenge in Scotland

      In Scotland, a group of politicians are attempting to overturn a court ruling made on Wednesday that Mr Johnson’s plan to shut down parliament ahead of Brexit is, in fact, legal.

      Lord Doherty, sitting at the Court of Session, said the prime minister had not broken any laws by asking the Queen for a five-week suspension as it was for Parliament and the electorate to judge the prime minister’s actions – not the courts.

      The group of more than 70 largely pro-Remain politicians, headed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry, argues that Mr Johnson is exceeding his powers and attempting to undermine democracy by avoiding parliamentary scrutiny before the UK leaves the EU on 31 October.

      On Friday, Lord Carloway said the court had some extremely complex issues to decide, and it hoped to be in a position to give its judgment on Wednesday.

      In Belfast, a campaigner for victims of the Troubles is also bringing a case on Friday arguing that a no-deal exit from the EU could jeopardise the Northern Ireland peace process.

      The lawyers of Raymond McCord – whose son was murdered by the loyalist Ulster Volunteer Force in 1997 – argue no-deal would endanger the Good Friday Agreement and that suspending Parliament is unconstitutional.

      At a preliminary hearing on Thursday, a lawyer for the government argued for a delay to the case, saying the Labour-backed anti no-deal Brexit bill had “changed the paradigm” and altered the need for an urgent judgment.

      But Mr McCord’s lawyer said the case was ready to proceed and while it “looked as if” the bill would become law, “we don’t know”.