Court action planned to prevent suspension of Parliament over Brexit
A cross-party group of parliamentarians is planning legal action in a Scottish court to rule out the suspension of the UK Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.
The group intends to ask the Court of Session in Edinburgh for a ruling that the incoming prime minister cannot “close down” Westminster in the run-up to October 31, the day on which the UK is currently scheduled to leave the European Union (EU).
Those uniting behind the action include a number of Scottish, English and Welsh MPs and peers from the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Labour, Plaid Cymru and the Greens, including the SNP’s Joanna Cherry and Jo Swinson, the new leader of the Liberal Democrats.
The group, backed by Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Project, has written to the UK Government’s legal representative in Scotland, Advocate General Lord Keen of Elie QC, to set out its position.
The legal process is expected to get under way at Scotland’s highest civil court next week, with the petitioners hoping it will be heard urgently and the court giving its decision before Parliament returns from its summer break.
Setting out their proposal, the politicians insist that Parliament is “not an inconvenience to be bypassed” and they want the court to completely prevent the prorogation of parliament by the incoming prime minister.
In their letter, the parliamentarians state that they are seeking a “declarator” that the new prime minister cannot lawfully advise the Queen to suspend Parliament to stop it voting on a no-deal Brexit.
Writing online, Mr Maugham, who is crowdfunding for the case, said: “Parliament elected by the people holds the power – not a Prime Minister selected by Conservative Party activists.
“We believe Parliament must decide what happens with Brexit – and we think the courts will agree.”
Mr Maugham, who is one of the named petitioners in the case, is joined from the House of Commons by Ms Swinson and Ms Cherry; independents Heidi Allen and Angela Smith; Geraint Davies and Ian Murray of Labour; and Hywel Williams of Plaid Cymru.
Petitioners from the House of Lords include Lord Hain, Baroness Jones, Baroness Royall, Lord Winston and Lord Wood, with other parliamentarians expected to join the cause.
The legal team working on the action is the same one which last year successfully secured a ruling from the European Court of Justice that the UK can unilaterally revoke its withdrawal from the EU if it so chooses.
That decision on the Article 50 process followed legal moves which began at the Court of Session.
The legal team will use the precedent of that case to argue that the court should state the law in advance of the Queen ever being asked to suspend Parliament.
Ms Swinson, who was named as her party’s new leader on Monday, said that proroguing Parliament “so as to crash the UK out without a deal would be catastrophic for our NHS, jobs, and our environment”.
She added: “This legal challenge is one of the many ways in which we will fight to ensure that the Tory Government do not ride roughshod over our Parliament and democracy.”
Ms Cherry said: “The Tories have steadfastly ignored the democratically expressed will of Scotland’s voters and parliament to stay in the EU.
“Now we face a no-deal Brexit with potentially catastrophic damage to Scotland’s economy, society and culture.
“It is unconscionable that the incoming PM should simply do away with the Westminster Parliament in order to fulfil this slow motion car crash. Therefore we must take all steps we can to prevent prorogation.”