UK Supreme Court Rules Boris Johnson's Decision To Suspend Parliament Was Unlawful

Critics had accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of suspending parliament to escape scrutiny in the run-up to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.

LONDON — The UK Supreme Court has ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial decision to suspend parliament was unlawful.

The prime minister “prorogued” parliament for five weeks at the start of September, arguing the suspension would allow him to set out a new domestic agenda in a Queen’s speech.

But in announcing the verdict on Tuesday, the president of the Supreme Court, Lady Hale, said the prorogation was “void and of no effect,” adding: “Parliament has not been prorogued.”

Lady Hale announced that the court’s judgment was the unanimous judgment of all 11 justices, adding the case is a “one-off,” having come about “in circumstances which have never arisen before and are unlikely to ever arise again.”

She told the court that “a decision to prorogue, or advise the monarch to prorogue, will be unlawful if the prorogation has the effect of frustrating or preventing without reasonable justification the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive.”

Reacting to the verdict, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow announced MPs will return to the House of Commons on Wednesday at 11:30 a.m.

Prime Minister Johnson was in New York for a UN summit on climate change when the ruling was announced ― which was at around 5:30 a.m. New York time. 

“I have to say that I strongly disagree with what the justices have found,” he said. But he said that MPs will now come back to parliament. 

Downing Street also reportedly dismissed calls for Johnson’s resignation.

Johnson is scheduled to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump at 11:15 a.m. local time.

After the verdict, opposition parties began calling for Johnson’s resignation. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at his party’s conference in Brighton, said Johnson should “consider his position” as prime minister.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said the decision by the Supreme Court confirms that Johnson “isn’t fit to be Prime Minister.”

“He’s misled Queen and country, and unlawfully silenced the people’s representatives,” she tweeted.

Deputy Labour Leader, Tom Watson, called for Johnson to resign, a sentiment also expressed by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

Protesters outside the Supreme Court erupted into cheers following the ruling.

Chants of “reopen Parliament” and “Johnson out” quickly began as the news spread through crowds, who were watching livestreams on mobile phones outside.

Susan Rogers, 70, told PA: “I am really pleased, I assumed that they would come to this verdict.

“It really shocked me the liberties that were taken, with the lies and with the prorogation of Parliament.

“I think Parliament should reopen and start dealing with the problems in the country. Look at the homeless, look at the NHS.”

Critics had accused Johnson of trying to escape scrutiny in the run-up to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, with MPs not due to return to Westminster until Oct. 14.

The Supreme Court judgment comes after challenges to the prime minister’s decision resulted in different rulings at courts in England and Scotland.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that Johnson’s suspension of parliament was “unlawful” following a case brought by a group of around 75 MPs and peers.

However, a challenge by businesswoman Gina Miller in the High Court in London was unsuccessful.

This story has been updated throughout.

Ned Simons and Arj Singh contributed to this article.