Former PM Major backs legal challenge over suspension of Parliament

Boris Johnson has warned of "lasting damage" if Brexit is delayed as former prime minister Sir John Major said he would fight the current premier in court.

The Prime Minister is facing a series of legal challenges over his decision to suspend Parliament for up to five weeks ahead of a Queen's Speech on October 14.

Former Conservative leader Sir John will now seek to join an action being brought by campaigner Gina Miller.

Sir John suggested his experience in Number 10 could assist the High Court in deciding whether Mr Johnson's actions in proroguing Parliament are lawful.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson said he was also joining the legal action against what he called "an unprecedented affront to democracy".

But Mr Johnson defended his decision and warned efforts to frustrate Brexit on October 31 would be seized on by Brussels to avoid offering a good deal.

"I'm afraid that the more our friends and partners think, at the back of their mind, that Brexit could be stopped, that the UK could be kept in by Parliament, the less likely they are to give us the deal that we need," he told Sky News.

He also said there would be a backlash if people's votes in the 2016 referendum were not respected.

"If we frustrate that mandate, if we stop the UK from leaving on October 31, if that's what parliamentarians end up doing, it will do lasting damage to people's trust in politics.

"It will do lasting and catastrophic damage to the major parties in this country and I think this political generation won't be forgiven for failing to honour that promise."

Businesswoman Ms Miller – who previously took the Government to court over the triggering of Article 50 to start the Brexit process – said her case would be heard on September 5.

Opponents claimed prorogation was aimed at stopping discussion of Brexit and hampering cross-party efforts to block the prospect of a no-deal withdrawal from the European Union – an allegation denied by Mr Johnson.

"In view of the imminence of the prorogation – and to avoid duplication of effort and taking up the court's time through repetition – I intend to seek the court's permission to intervene in the claim already initiated by Gina Miller, rather than to commence separate proceedings," Sir John said.

"If granted permission to intervene, I intend to seek to assist the court from the perspective of having served in Government as a minister and prime minister, and also in Parliament for many years as a member of the House of Commons."

Shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti said she has been granted permission to intervene in the judicial review, as she accused the Government of operating from a "far-right play-book".

Baroness Chakrabarti said: "I am grateful to the High Court for granting me permission to intervene in these important proceedings on behalf of the official opposition.

"Parliamentary sovereignty remains the foremost and overarching principle of our constitution.

"Whatever far-right play-book Number 10 may be copying from, the abusive shutdown of our legislature won't wash under United Kingdom constitutional law."

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John Major
John Major listens as Edwina Currie making a point at the beginning at the launch of the party's European Manifesto in London. * 28/9/02: Former Prime Minister John Major and his Conservative colleague Edwina Currie had a four-year love affair when serving as ministers, Mrs Currie said. The affair began in 1984 when Mr Major was a government whip and Mrs Currie a backbencher, she said in her diaries, which are being serialised in The Times newspaper. 22/10/02: Major s secret affair with fellow Tory minister Edwina Currie has put him in the same league as Liam Gallagher and Ozzy Osbourne, a survey found. The once grey man, who had a fling with the outspoken former MP, was ranked seventh in a poll to find the top of the bad behaviour league. Craggy rock legend Mick Jagger topped the chart which was organised to tie in with a new show on the Bravo TV channel, called Hellraisers Handbook.
John Major, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, arriving at the Treasury in London.
John Major, Parliament under Secretary.
John Major speaks to press
Press photographers wearing John Major masks share an "April Fools Day" joke with Prime Minister John Major as he speaks to the crowd in Thornbury, north Avon.
Putting on brave faces at the European Council Summit in Dublin this afternoon (Sat), Prime Minister John Major (right) and Chancellor Kenneth Clarke discuss decisions made at the summit. Photo John Giles.PA.
Prime Minister John Major and Chancellor Kenneth Clarke give a news conference at Westminster today (Friday). Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA
Prime Minister John Major leads the applause for Margaret Thatcher on her arrival at the Conservative Party Conference in Blackpool.
Baroness Thatcher and Prime Minister John Major applaud the Party Chairman's speech at the Conservative Party conference in Bournemouth.
Left to right, The Prince and Princess of Wales, Prime Minister John Major and the Duchess of York brave the weather for the open air concert by Luciano Pavarotti.
Left to right, back row: Former Prime Ministers Lord Callahan, Lord Wilson, and Sir Edward Heath. Front row, left to right: Prime Minister John Major, the Princess of Wales, The Prince of Wales, Queen Elizabeth II, The Duke of Edinburgh and former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher at Spencer House in London for a dinner given by past and present Prime Ministers and their spouses.
Prime Minister John Major and American President George Bush outside 10 Downing Street.
Former Prime Minister Baroness Thatcher shares a joke with Prime Minister John Major on the platform at the Conservative Party Conference.
John Major/David Frost
PAP 41 1.5.95. LONDON. Prime Minister John Major (left) talks with England rugby captain Will Carling, during a reception for the South African sports council and South African rugby players at 10 Downing Street this evening (Monday). Photo by Rebecca Naden. Watch for PA story. NS rota picture. /PJ.
Prime Minister Tony Blair (RIGHT) walks with former Prime Minister John Major to the House of Lords to hear the speech by Queen Elizabeth II, in a ritual steeped in centuries of pomp and ceremony, 14 May, when she opened the British Parliament with the traditional speech setting out Prime Minister Tony Blair's legislative program for the next 17 months. WPA-ROTA-Eggitt.
Former Prime Minister John Major talks to Prime Minster Tony Blair in Belfast today (Wednesday) while campaigning for a 'YES' vote in the May 22 referendum. Photo by Chris Bacon/PA*EDI*. See Pa story ULSTER Talks
Margaret Thatcher and John Major and the rest of the cabinet are joined by West German leader, Helmut Kohl, at a cabinet meeting. Chancellor Kohl is five from the front of the line of cabinet members on the right.
Prime Minister John Major (left) greets former US President Ronald Reagan at 10 Downing Street, in London. *05/06/04: Former US President Ronald Reagan has died a family friend said.
Prime Minister John Major meets soldiers from the 3rd Battalion of the Desert Rats in eastern Saudi Arabia.
Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is welcomed by Prime Minister John Major on his arrival at Lancaster House.
Prime Minister John Major, along with Elton John (l) and Ronnie Corbett (r), launches the 'Gift of Sight' campaign at No. 10 Downing Street
The Spitting Image puppet of Prime Minister John Major gets to grips with the leader of the opposition Labour leader Neil Kinnock at a preview of a new show opening at the Spitting Images Rubberworks site in Covent Garden, London.
Prime Minister John Major (left) in Sarajevo, Bosnia, he was shown round by Lt Gen Sir Michael Rose.
L-R: Party leaders John Major (Conservative), Paddy Ashdown (Liberal Democrats) and Tony Blair (Labour) talk before a Beating the Retreat ceremony in London, during the VJ Day Commemorations.

In a separate legal case in Scotland, judge Lord Doherty rejected a call for an interim interdict to block the suspension of Parliament, but said a full hearing would take place on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, opponents of Mr Johnson's strategy appear increasingly confident of finding a way to block a no-deal Brexit despite the prospect of Parliament shutting down temporarily.

Tory rebel ringleader Sir Oliver Letwin said he had been in talks with Speaker John Bercow about the parliamentary procedures that will apply.

The former minister told BBC Radio 4's Today: "I know that there are a number of my colleagues who feel as I do, that a disorderly no-deal exit is a very bad idea, and they have in the past been willing to come and support efforts to prevent that happening and I very much hope that will happen again."

Sir Oliver said the move could force Mr Johnson to delay Brexit beyond the October 31 deadline unless there is a Withdrawal Agreement with Brussels.

On the Labour side, shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti said "since the constitutional outrage" she had "greater comfort that minds are now focused, especially on the Conservative side".

She told Today there were ways of preventing filibusters and "any sort of public school dirty tricks" aimed at blocking legislation when it reaches the Lords.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab dismissed as "nonsense" the suggestion that prorogation was a constitutional outrage.

The prospect of an explosive Commons battle next week came as Mr Johnson called for both the UK and EU to "step up the tempo" in talks with negotiators sitting down twice a week in September.

But Ireland's deputy prime minister, Simon Coveney, said so far the UK had not put forward any "credible" alternatives to the backstop – the contingency plan aimed at preventing a hard border with the UK.

Brussels again demanded "concrete proposals" that were "compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn encouraged his MPs to join public protests against a no-deal Brexit.

He said: "There are also public protests across the country this Saturday, there will be a rally in Parliament Square on Tuesday evening, and I encourage Labour MPs to be present and to share our message."

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