How the law can stop prorogation

Jo Sidhu

posted on 29 Aug 2019

Yesterday Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks ahead of the looming 31 October Brexit deadline. It has sparked a wave of fury on what has been described as “the day democracy died”. 

So what do you do when an unelected politician abuses the country’s highest office? Within hours of the announcement thousands were participating in impromptu protests across the country and over 1.2 million people signed a petition to stop the proroguing of Parliament. And it doesn’t stop there - two legal challenges have been launched and stand in the way of Boris Johnson’s “act of tyranny”. Here we take a look at how the law can be used to stop prorogation of Parliament.  

Seek a ruling from the Scottish Court of Session

A group of 75 cross-party MPs supported by the Good Law Project are seeking an emergency ruling from the Scottish Courts. They've applied for a declaration that Boris Johnson cannot suspend Parliament to stop a vote on no-deal Brexit as this would be illegal and unconstitutional. 

The basis for the challenge is whether the prorogation of Parliament would breach established constitutional law, the EU Withdrawal Act 2018 and the Northern Ireland Act 2019. These laws require that Parliament ratify the final Brexit deal and the Northern Ireland Act was amended specifically to ensure Parliament sat from September to December 2019 to scrutinise the Brexit process. 

The hearing is currently scheduled for 6 September, although the petitioners are asking for an emergency ruling this week. The case is being brought by the same legal team that brought the successful action last year establishing that the UK could unilaterally revoke the Article 50 notice: Aidan O’Neill QC of Matrix Chambers and solicitors Balfour + Manson. 

The group are raising funds on CrowdJustice to support this application in what they expect will be a fight all the way to the Supreme Court. 

Apply for a judicial review in the English High Court

Gina Miller has filed an urgent application before the High Court of England Wales to bring a judicial review on the basis that proroguing Parliament undermines Parliamentary sovereignty. Gina Miller had been in correspondence with Government lawyers throughout the summer who told her that the issue of prorogation was no more than “academic interest”. Their last reply was sent on 27 August mere hours before the Government announced the decision to suspend Parliament. 

Gina Miller brought the successful Supreme Court challenge in 2016 that required Parliament to legislate before Article 50 could be triggered. She is working with the same legal team who brought that challenge: Lord Pannick and Tom Hickman of Blackstone Chambers and solicitors Mishcon de Reya.

If you want help use the law to #StopTheCoup click here.