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What Does The UK's Supreme Court Decision Mean For Boris Johnson And Brexit?

When will MPs be back in parliament? Will Boris Johnson have to resign?

Just when you thought British politics couldn’t get any more complicated — or exciting — the Supreme Court added another, major, twist in the tale. 

Tuesday morning’s ruling that Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament was unlawful has raised probably far more questions than it answers - among them: will the prime minister be forced to resign, and what are the implications now for Brexit? 

But never fear, we have translated what this truly momentous decision means for UK politics. 

The basics — what does the ruling mean? 

Boris Johnson’s five-week prorogation in the face of a possible no-deal Brexit on Oct.r 31 was ruled not lawful because it had the effect of frustrating parliament, judges said. 

Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, declared the suspension “void and of no effect” and has said Speaker John Bercow could “take immediate steps” to reconvene the Commons.

“Parliament has not been prorogued,” she said. 

MPs will now return to Westminster on Wednesday morning.

Recording the unanimous verdict of 11 judges at the highest court in the land, Lady Hale said a prorogation (“a” not “the” because this ruling has implications for all future prorogations) is unlawful if “it has the effect of frustrating or preventing without reasonable justification the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions” holding the government to account. 

In other words, in this case the judges felt Johnson was trying to muffle parliament. 

Do the judges say Boris Johnson lied to the Queen? 

Not in so many words but they do hint at it. 

They say that the prime minister cannot have had “any good reason” to have advised the monarch to prorogue parliament. 

Johnson has always maintained that the lengthy prorogation was to allow the government to prepare a fresh Queen’s Speech and a new domestic agenda. 

But the judges were quite clear that they did not accept this. 

The judgment says: “It is impossible for us to conclude on the evidence (...) that there was any reason — let alone a good reason — to advise Her Majesty to prorogue parliament for five weeks.”

What do they mean ‘parliament has not been prorogued’? It has!

This is legal-speak for “not in the eyes of the law, pal.” It means the judiciary has overruled the action and declared it null and void. 

How soon will parliament be recalled? 

Speaker John Bercow has said that parliament will be recalled on Wednesday morning.

Sadly, there will be no prime minister’s questions session, as would usually take place at noon on this day. But Johnson will almost certainly face scrutiny, over both the Supreme Court judgment and his Brexit strategy. And perhaps even over whether he allocated public money to a model turned technology entrepreneur.

Bercow has said there would be scope for urgent questions, ministerial statements and emergency debate applications, meaning MPs can get on with sorting Brexit. 

Some MPs are already in parliament taking selfies to prove a point. 

Does this mean that Boris Johnson has to resign? 

Not automatically, as in it was not in the judges’ remit to rule on this. 

But he is under serious pressure to do so and it hardly needs saying that it is an extraordinary verdict for any prime minister. 

Jeremy Corbyn has demanded Johnson stand down, telling Labour conference delegates chanting “get Johnson out” in Brighton that the PM should “consider his position” and become “the shortest serving prime minister there has ever been”.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, Green MP Caroline Lucas and a whole host of other leading figures have said Johnson should resign. 

Nigel Farage and other members of the Brexit Party have also called for Dominic Cummings, Johnson’s most senior advisor in Number 10, to resign. 

Last night Johnson suggested he wouldn’t resign if he lost the case, saying: “I will wait and see what the justices decide, the Supreme Court decides, because as I’ve said before I believe that the reasons for... wanting a Queen’s speech were very good indeed.”

What does it mean for Brexit? 

As ever, this is the million dollar question.

There are a number of avenues MPs could choose to take. 

One is that a vote of no-confidence is tabled in the prime minister.

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon has said the prime minister should face this if he refuses to quit. 

If Johnson loses, opposition MPs could form an alternative government with Corbyn — or another figure — serving as caretaker prime minister. In all likelihood, this could mean Brexit is delayed. 

If Johnson wins, however, he could continue in his efforts to strike a new deal with Brussels which could be brought before MPs sooner. 

It is more likely, however, that Johnson will be forced to seek an extension. 

Under the anti-no-deal act passed by MPs earlier this year, it is the law for any PM to seek an extension to Article 50 if no agreement has been agreement by parliament by mid-October.

Given this shock judgment, it seems highly unlikely Johnson will now try to flout the law or get around the act. 

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