The British attorney general sparked furor Wednesday when he claimed that Parliament is “dead” and that lawmakers have “no moral right to sit on these green benches,” a day after a bombshell court decision deemed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament to be illegal amid Brexit turmoil.
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox’s baritone boomed across the House of Commons as he defended the advice he gave the prime minister backing the suspension, saying the government acted in “good faith.” He also aggressively attacked lawmakers for being “too cowardly” to vote for a no-confidence motion in Johnson’s government.
“This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches,” Cox said, adding that the legislature was a “disgrace.”
“This parliament should have the courage to face the electorate, but it won’t because so many of them are really all about preventing us from leaving the European Union. But the time is coming. The time is coming, Mr. Speaker, when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas.”
The lawmakers at the House of Commons returned to work Wednesday, a day after the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that said Johnson’s prorogation – or suspension of Parliament – earlier this month was “void and of no effect.” The high court said Johnson’s government, instead, shut down the legislature in an effort to squelch debate on Britain’s divorce from the EU, set for Oct. 31.
Johnson, who sidestepped calls for his resignation as he cut his trip to the U.N. General Assembly in New York City short, has said that he “strongly” disagreed with the court’s decision, and even suggested he might try to suspend Parliament a second time. He is set to face lawmakers later Wednesday.
The newly-returned lawmakers focused their ire on Cox, who was forced to concede that he may have to make further disclosures about his advice that the suspension was legal.
“I will consider over the coming days whether the public interest might require a greater disclosure of the advice given to the government,” he said.
Cox’s accusations against Parliament sparked furor from opposition lawmakers, who took to Twitter on Wednesday to defend the legislature.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson should apologize to the public and to Queen Elizabeth II for telling her that Parliament should be suspended until Oct. 14. The suspension would have limited debate before Britain's scheduled Oct. 31 departure from the 28-nation bloc.
"I think he should apologize to her (the Queen) for the advice he gave her but, more importantly, apologize to the British people for what he's done in trying to shut down our democracy at a very crucial time when people are very, very worried about what will happen on Oct. 31," Corbyn told the BBC.
In his speech to the U.N. in New York, Johnson mentioned Brexit only once — as a pointed aside while recalling the myth of Prometheus, who was chained to a rock by Zeus and sentenced to have his liver eaten out by an eagle for eternity.
"And this went on forever," he quipped, "a bit like the experience of Brexit in the U.K, if some of our parliamentarians had their way."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.