(CNN)The UK government’s decision to shut down Parliament in the run-up to Brexit was illegal, Scotland’s highest civil court has ruled, in a serious blow to embattled Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In a devastating ruling, a panel of three senior judges unanimously declared that Johnson’s advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was “unlawful.” Johnson has always insisted that his decision was a routine device that allowed the government to start a new parliamentary session with a fresh legislative agenda. But the Scottish judges disagreed, saying it was was motivated by the “improper purpose of stymying Parliament.” “This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behaviour of public authorities,” ruled one of the judges, Lord Brodie, according to a summary of the decision posted online. The court did not immediately issue an order to lift the suspension — also known as prorogation — noting that the High Court in London had come to a different conclusion and that the UK Supreme Court would need to resolve the issue. The government confirmed that it would appeal the Scottish court’s decision to the Supreme Court.A protester holds a placard at the gates of Downing Street during a demonstration against the UK Government’s decision to prorogue parliament.Read MoreJoanna Cherry, a member of Parliament for the Scottish National Party, who was the lead petitioner in the cross-party group of politicians which brought the action, said the decision was a “historic ruling.”Dominic Grieve, who was attorney general in the government of former Prime Minister Theresa May, said if it was established that Johnson had misled the Queen, he would have to resign.”If that were to to be the case that this had happened, Boris Johnson would find himself in an untenable position in Parliament,” he told the BBC.Advice to the Queen ruled unlawfulIn their unexpected ruling on Wednesday, the Scottish judges overturned an earlier decision that the courts did not have the power to interfere in the Prime Minister’s political decision to prorogue parliament. JUST WATCHEDWhy Boris Johnson wants to suspend ParliamentReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Why Boris Johnson wants to suspend Parliament 02:11They ruled that the real reason for suspending Parliament — to frustrate its role in holding the government to account — was so significant that it justified a legal ruling.In the summary of their ruling — the full text of which will be published on Friday — the judges were sharply critical of the government. “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,” Lord Brodie said.The ruling concluded that the Prime Minister had acted illegally when he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament. “The Court will accordingly make an order declaring that the Prime Minister’s advice to HM the Queen and the prorogation which followed thereon was unlawful and is thus null and of no effect,” the summary concluded.Lawyer Jolyon Maugham, part of the group which funded the Scottish legal action, said the ruling had a clear meaning: “We believe that the effect of the decision is that Parliament is no longer prorogued,” he tweeted.The UK government’s reactionIn its response to the ruling, Downing Street confirmed it would appeal. “We are disappointed by today’s decision, and will appeal to the UK Supreme Court,” a spokesman said.”The UK government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda,” it added. “Proroguing Parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.”JUST WATCHEDWatch the chaos unfold as the UK’s parliament is suspendedReplayMore Videos …MUST WATCH
Watch the chaos unfold as the UK’s parliament is suspended 02:00Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour Party’s Brexit spokesman, tweeted that he welcomed the court’s decision: “No one in their right mind believed Boris Johnson’s reason for shutting down Parliament.””I urge the Prime Minister to immediately recall Parliament so we can debate this judgment and decide what happens next,” he added.Suspending Parliament in order to restart the political calendar is usually a routine annual event, but the timing and length of this prorogation was criticized because it limited opportunities for lawmakers to legislate against a potential no-deal Brexit, ahead of the October 31 deadline for the UK to leave the European Union. Lawmakers are not scheduled to return to parliament until October 14, just days before the UK is due to leave the EU.