Brexit crisis deepens as court rules Johnson unlawfully suspended parliament

LONDON (Reuters) – The United Kingdom’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to shut down parliament in the run-up to Brexit was unlawful, a humiliating rebuke that thrusts Britain’s exit from the European Union into deeper turmoil. The unanimous and stinging judgment by the court’s 11 judges undermines Johnson’s already fragile grip on power and gives legislators more scope to oppose his promise to take Britain out of the EU on Oct. 31. Opposition leaders demanded that he should resign immediately for misleading Queen Elizabeth, who had officially suspended parliament on his advice Parliament, where Johnson has lost his majority and he suffered repeated defeats since taking office in July, is now set to be reconvened three weeks early, giving opponents more time to challenge, amend, or block his Brexit plans or even bring down his government. “The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification,” Supreme Court President Brenda Hale said. In its historic ruling, the court said Johnson had not given any reason – “let alone a good reason” – for suspending the legislature for five weeks. “The prime minister’s advice to Her Majesty was unlawful, void and of no effect,” said Hale, adding that parliament was therefore not suspended and it was up to the speakers of parliament’s two chambers to decide what to do next. John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, where a majority of lawmakers oppose his plan for an Oct. 31 Brexit even if he has failed to secure a divorce deal, said the chamber would convene on Wednesday. “I’ve instructed the House authorities to undertake such steps as are necessary to ensure that the House of Commons sits tomorrow and that it does so at 11.30 am (1030 GMT),” he said. Sterling GBP= initially hit a day’s high of $1.2479 after the ruling before falling back to stand at $1.2454 at 1045 GMT, up 0.2% on the day and only slightly stronger than before the court decision. The country is deeply divided and the court ruling was eagerly awaited, from pro- and anti-Brexit protesters gathered outside parliament to people watching on television in homes and offices. Johnson’s reaction to the damning ruling could be crucial. He now faces a hostile parliament and the EU which says his proposals for a Brexit deal are far too meagre for a proper divorce deal. Parliament was suspended, or prorogued in the formal term, from Sept. 10 to Oct. 14. The prorogation was approved by Queen Elizabeth, Britain’s politically neutral head of state, on the advice of the prime minister. Buckingham Palace had no immediate comment. Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said Johnson was unfit to rule and that she would return to Westminster to fight to stop Brexit altogether. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said if he did not resign he should be forced out.