Suspending Parliament is the act of a dictator. We can't allow it.

by Jo Maugham QC

Suspending Parliament is the act of a dictator. We can't allow it.

by Jo Maugham QC
Jo Maugham QC
Case Owner
I am the founder of the Good Law Project Limited.
Funded
on 24th July 2019
£207,970
pledged of £200,000 stretch target from 7,754 pledges
Jo Maugham QC
Case Owner
I am the founder of the Good Law Project Limited.

Latest: Sept. 16, 2019

Supreme Court hearing

As you will probably have gathered, we were, thanks to your support and the work of our stellar legal team, successful last week in Scotland's highest court. The matter is scheduled to be heard...

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No Deal - which Parliament has repeatedly rejected and the Government's own adviser expects to cost at least £570m a week - is back on the cards. Not because Parliament has changed its mind but because Boris Johnson thinks he can force it through by suspending Parliament.

But that's not how democracy works. Parliament elected by the people holds the power - not a Prime Minister selected by Conservative Party activists. We believe Parliament must decide what happens with Brexit - and we think the courts will agree.

We have set out our legal arguments in this letter to the Advocate General for Scotland. 

Who are we?

We are a cross-party group of members of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, from Scotland, Wales and England, backed by the Good Law Project. We are going to ask the Court of Session in Scotland - which sits through the summer - to rule out the suspension of Parliament to force through No Deal. We believe our constitution doesn't allow the Prime Minister to bypass our wishes.

So far petitioners from the House of Commons include Heidi Allen (Ind), Joanna Cherry (SNP), Geraint Davies (Labour), Ian Murray (Labour), Angela Smith (Ind), Jo Swinson (LD), Hywel Williams (PC). 

Petitioners from the House of Lords include Lord Hain, Baroness Jones, Baroness Royall, Lord Winston and Lord Wood. 

We expect others will join us shortly. We will, of course, keep you updated. Jo Maugham QC will also be a petitioner.

What are we asking for?

We will be asking the Court to declare that Boris Johnson can't advise the Queen to suspend Parliament to stop it voting on No Deal. If the Court so declares then Boris Johnson will not be able to suspend Parliament for that purpose without Parliament's permission.

The amendments made to the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation) Bill impose only modest limits to Boris Johnson's ability to suspend Parliament. We understand he could still suspend Parliament from 7 September to 22 October inclusive. And the limits fall away entirely if a Northern Ireland Executive is formed.

Who will act for us?

We will be represented by the legal team that won the Wightman case - the case that established that the United Kingdom could unilaterally cancel the Article 50 notice. The Counsel team will be led by Aidan O'Neill QC and the Solicitors will be Balfour+Manson.

What happens next?

Matters will move quickly. They will have to if we are to avoid the Queen having to choose between breaking precedent by ignoring the advice of her Prime Minister and breaking the constitution by suspending Parliament. We won't wait for Boris Johnson to ask the Queen; by then it will be too late. We will apply to the court now and ask for the matter to be heard urgently. In Scotland the Court of Session sits throughout the summer. 

What will it cost?

The issues are complex and the number of petitioners will add to the costs.There are also likely to be a number of interventions from interested parties. We expect to need to raise £100,000 to have the issue determined in the Outer House of the Court of Session. Of this we assume £40,000 will be incurred at the 'permission' stage.

These funds will be used to meet our legal expenses and any liability to pay the legal expenses of the other side. We will provide accounts of how the money is spent. If, at the conclusion of the litigation, there is a surplus it will go to Good Law Project. 

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Update 4

Jo Maugham QC

Sept. 16, 2019

Supreme Court hearing

As you will probably have gathered, we were, thanks to your support and the work of our stellar legal team, successful last week in Scotland's highest court. The matter is scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court over three days starting tomorrow, and we are expecting to make our arguments in response to the Government's appeal on Wednesday afternoon. 

If you have some free time on the bus I discuss the case - and surrounding matters - in this podcast. 

Fingers crossed,

Jo Maugham QC

Update 3

Jo Maugham QC

Aug. 29, 2019

Suspending Parliament is the act of a dictator. We can't allow it.

Yesterday Boris Johnson decided to suspend Parliament in an attempt to force through No Deal against what we know to be the wishes of MPs who have three times rejected it. Whoever loses our challenge to his action – presently scheduled to be heard on Friday week – will appeal to the Inner House of the Court of Session and then to the Supreme Court. This is all likely to happen at great speed.

We generally prefer not to crowdfund for appeals until would-be contributors have seen the decision the appeal against which they are being invited to pay to advance or resist. It is undesirable that you should be asked to fund legal work ‘blind’, as it were. However, time is likely to be very short to raise monies to fund what will be inevitable appeals.

We – the cross-party group of more than seventy MPs and me – are incredibly grateful for your support, without which this vital litigation would not be possible.

Jo Maugham QC

Update 2

Jo Maugham QC

Aug. 27, 2019

Primary legislation required for No Deal

You can read here a copy of our 'adjusted' claim against the Government to prevent it cancelling Parliament.

Readers will note from paragraph 37 that we contend that: "as a matter of constitutional law, the United Kingdom Government may not permit a 'no deal Brexit' unless and until explicit statutory authorisation from the Union Parliament is provided in the form of primary legislation to this effect." And that the courts would, in certain circumstances, "be obliged to pronounce a mandatory order ordaining the United Kingdom Government duly to revoke, prior to exit day, its Article 50 TEU withdrawal notification."

The case is fully funded for the first stage. However, we think the case is likely to proceed very quickly to the Supreme Court and we will need to reopen the crowdfunding if there are appeals. If you wish to support the work done by the Good Law Project you can do so here.

We will write further on the reasoning behind the adjustments shortly.

Jo Maugham QC

Update 1

Jo Maugham QC

July 25, 2019

We now have permission

We can confirm that our action to prevent Boris Johnson cancelling Parliament has received (without an oral hearing) permission to proceed. We can further confirm that the case is fully funded - we should not need to raise further funds unless there is an appeal.

A copy of the Petition, in which our director Jolyon Maugham QC, along with Jo Swinson and Joanna Cherry and some seventy other MPs and Peers, can be read here.

The Government’s ‘defence’ seems only to be that because Parliament amended the Northern Ireland (Executive Formation etc) Bill it follows that it is happy with any other suspension of Parliament. This (it seems to me at any rate) is an almost self-evidently bad proposition.

At 9am on Tuesday the Court will determine the timetabling of the full hearing. The Court is well aware of the urgency of the matter. 

Because our 'friends' on the Hard Right seek to smear the work the Good Law Project does, and the BBC gives them a platform so to do and affords us no right to respond, let us say (1) that our director does not earn one single penny from any of the monies that go to Crowdjustice or the GLP, and (2) it is a matter of public record that the Good Law Project brought the case that (a) became Miller (and went public before she did) (b) forced the Electoral Commission to reopen its investigation into the illegal actions by Vote Leave and (c) established we could unilaterally revoke Article 50.

Finally, we are incredibly grateful to the legal team of Aidan O’Neill QC, Professor Kenneth Armstrong, David Welsh and Sam Fowles instructed by Balfour+Manson.

Jo Maugham QC

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