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United Kingdom: Scottish judge rejects appeal against Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament


The highest civil instance in Scotland had been seized by a group of about 75 pro-European parliamentarians seeking to declare the prorogation of Parliament illegal.

A protester against the suspension of Parliament decided by Boris Johnson brandishes a sign "Stop the coup" in London, Thursday, August 29. Kirsty Wigglesworth / AP

The court decision was eagerly awaited in the United Kingdom: a Scottish judge on Friday (August 30th) rejected a request to oppose the suspension of parliament decided by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, much to the chagrin of opponents of a tough Brexit. Seized by a group of about 75 pro-European parliamentarians seeking to declare the suspension of Parliament illegal, the Edinburgh Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, only took a provisional decision Friday, pending a hearing on the merits on 6 September.

The critics of Boris Johnson have launched a petition against the prorogation of Parliament which collected nearly 1.6 million signatures on Friday morning. Since the announcement made by the Conservative Prime Minister on Tuesday, thousands of people have come out on the streets to denounce "a coup" and other events are planned this weekend and Tuesday.

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If the Prime Minister has the right to postpone the sittings of Parliament at a later date, after having been authorized by Queen Elizabeth, this is the time to do so, in the final stretch before the fateful date of Brexit, October 31, and the length of the suspension (five weeks) that are in dispute.

By interrupting the Parliament session for such a long period, Boris Johnson is suspected of wanting to prevent members from blocking a Brexit without agreement, which the government wants to implement if he does not find a compromise with Brussels on the conditions of the leaving the European Union on 31 October. Boris Johnson, for his part, said he wants to take advantage of this time to develop and present his national policy agenda as Theresa May's new successor on July 24.

Read the analysis: By suspending the British Parliament, Boris Johnson aggravates the Brexit crisis

Other claims filed in Northern Ireland and England

Elected officials who had lodged an appeal before the Scottish court had been opposed for several weeks to the possibility of a suspension, which Boris Johnson had not ruled out. Their appeal was heard on Thursday. Their lawyer, Aidan O'Neill, said the suspension was "unprecedented . " "The government, based on a parliamentary majority, seeks to impose its power by suspending Parliament ," he argued. It is unconstitutional and this court must stop it. Roddy Dunlop, the government representative, had asked the court to reject the request, not least because the suspension has already been authorized.

Another appeal filed on behalf of a North Irish human rights activist, Raymond McCord, was also due to be heard in an emergency on Friday morning in the Northern Ireland High Court. "Of course, Boris Johnson has the power to advise the Queen to suspend Parliament, but what we are saying is that his motivation to do so is illegal because he clearly tries to bypass Parliament," said his lawyer, Ciaran O'Hare.

A businesswoman, Gina Miller, has also filed an action in the English courts, hoping for a hearing in London next week. This anti-Brexit activist had already won a judicial battle in 2017 to force the government, then led by Theresa May, to consult Parliament on the withdrawal process.

If the Prime Minister's critics can show that his motivation is more for Brexit than for national politics, then the courts could declare his decision illegal.

Read also "Lost in Brexit": after the suspension of Parliament, the options summarized in diagram

Source: lemonde

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