Boris Johnson cut his New York trip short, flying back to the UK overnight amid an unprecedented constitutional crisis following yesterday’s Supreme Court ruling.
The Prime Minister insisted he “strongly disagrees” with the judgement that prorogation was “unlawful, void and of no effect”, and reiterated his commitment to leave the EU by 31 October.
But after the Supreme Court handed speaker John Bercow control of the next steps, MPs found themselves being summoned back to work for 11:30am today – in the middle of what would normally be conference recess for parliamentarians.
In her ruling, Supreme Court president Lady Hale said: “This was not a normal prorogation in the run up to a Queen’s Speech. It prevented parliament from carrying out normal constitutional role for five weeks… This prolonged suspension of parliamentary democracy took place in quite unusual circumstances.”
Johnson’s opponents, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, seized on the ruling as yet more proof he was “unfit” and should resign.
Further embarrassment was sparked when attorney general Geoffrey Cox’s legal advice to the government, which said the five-week prorogation was lawful and within the constitution, was leaked to Sky News.
“Any accusations of unlawfulness or constitutional outrage were motivated by political considerations,” his recommendation said.
The Brexit debate will resume with MPs now free to try and pin Johnson down on ruling out a no-deal and securing an extension.
In a thinly-coded invitation for backbenchers to again try to block Johnson’s “do or die” pledge, Bercow said: “There will be full scope for urgent questions, ministerial statements and for applications for emergency debates under Standing Order number 24”.
Westminster was buzzing with rumours about what that might entail, including possibly amending the Benn Act to allow someone other than the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Article 50.
The Conservatives’ party conference is still due to go ahead this coming weekend. It is thought a motion will be brought forward to try and put parliament into recess during that time, however opposition frontbenchers have made it clear they will block this, raising questions about whether the Manchester event can go ahead as planned.
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