A lot happened on Wednesday in Parliament after PM Johnson’s prorogation was ruled “unlawful” by the Supreme Court. Here is your brief rundown.
On Wednesday, the U.K. Parliament resumed for the first time since Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proroguing was unanimously ruled “unlawful” and made null and void by the U.K. Supreme Court on Tuesday. A lot of ground was covered and tensions were high in the House.
Attorney General Cox and Prorogation
Attorney General Geoffrey Cox, who had advised the Prime Minister on the lawfulness of proroguing Parliament, began by reiterating Johnson’s remarks from Tuesday that “the Government accepts the judgement and accepts that it lost the case”. He continued to affirm that “in all times, the Government acted in good faith”, to which received an air of disapproval from the Opposition.
Former Conservative MP and Father of the House Kenneth Clarke asked of Cox if the Supreme Court ruling would be precedent set for all future governments. Clarke went on to ask Cox if he could reassure him that this action could not be repeated and therefore “Parliamentary sovereignty remains intact”.
Cox replied to Clarke’s inquiries by stating that “the principles [the Supreme Court] set apply to both sides” and that “the government will abide by its ruling.”
Cox has yet to release the details of the advice given to the Government on the matter of prorogation.
And then he got angry…
Cox later flew into a rather dramatic tirade, damning Parliament as a “dead Parliament” and a “disgrace”. He went on to chastise the Opposition for their reluctance to table a motion of no confidence and to call a general election, something PM Johnson himself previously put to a vote and lost.
Afterwards, Cox alluded to the Government again intending to table an election motion “before the House shortly”.
Michael Gove and Operation Yellowhammer
Over two hours of questioning and Minister Michael Gove, who is in charge of planning for a no-deal Brexit, managed to dodge the majority of questions and give little detail about a no-deal scenario.
Gove repeated much of what has been said by the Prime Minister himself, stating that “the Government is determined to secure a good deal with our EU partners” and that the negotiations “have seen significant movements over recent weeks”. Gove continued to say that the EU stated the “Withdrawal Agreement was sacrosanct” but now are willing to change it.
Anna Soubry, Leader of the Independent Group for Change, later called out Michael Gove regarding his evasion of questions about Project Yellowhammer, a contingency plan in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
Prime Minister Johnson Speaks
Out of the gate Prime Minister Johnson was on the offensive, accusing Parliament of “sabotaging” his negotiations with the European Union. He reiterated his stance that he wants the United Kingdom to exit the European Union on October 31, with a deal if possible. He later reiterated this point but added that the U.K. will leave “deal or no deal”, indicating the possibility of breaking the new law passed that requires Johnson to request an extension to Article 50 by October 19 if a deal is not in place by then. A law Johnson has repeatedly referred to as the “surrender act”, as it was “intended to damage this country’s negotiation position”. It is officially known as European Union (Withdrawal) (№2) Act 2019.
Later in the day, PM Johnson said of the Act, that it “would oblige us to stay in the EU for month after month” and would “undermine our ability to continue to negotiate because it takes away our ability to walk away from the negotiation”.
In regards to the Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday that Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, until October 14, was “unlawful”, Johnson again said he thought the ruling was “wrong” and that the Supreme Court should not have ruled on what was “a political decision”.
Labour and Opposition leader, Jeremy Corbyn shot back at the Prime Minister, accusing him of obstructing parliamentary oversight of his actions. “For the good of this country, he should go” stated Corbyn. He later said that “no Prime Minister is above the law”.
Rory Stewart, a former Conservative MP fired by Boris Johnson, also hit out against Johnson’s criticism of the Supreme Court ruling on Twitter, stating that Johnson was wrong “about the law, the constitution and the appropriate response of a PM to the Rule of Law”.
When pressed about Johnson’s phone call with the Queen on Tuesday, after the Supreme Court ruling, Johnson refused to say if he apologised to the Queen for the advice given to Her Majesty in regards to proroguing Parliament. The Prime Minister stated he would not comment on his conversations with the Queen.
PM Johnson went on further to invite the Opposition to call a no-confidence vote, something which Jeremy Corbyn said earlier on Wednesday they would not do. Labour, along with the Liberal Democrats and the SNP (Scottish National Party) have all indicated that they wish to ensure that there is no risk of a no-deal Brexit on October 31 before they motion a no-confidence vote and possibly trigger a new election. This was repeated by Corbyn later in Parliament. However, critics of the Opposition parties have cited poll data that show declining numbers for the Labour Party, the largest Opposition party, and the Conservatives leading, and believe that the reluctance to hold a vote sooner rather than later is more a reflection of this data than of the risk of a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson went of further to say that he wishes to “get Brexit done” and move on to “deal with the people’s priorities” including “the NHS” and “the cost of living”.
SNP MP Joanna Cherry enquired about having another Scottish Referendum. Scotland voted against independence in a referendum in 2014 and ever since, the SNP have been calling for a second referendum. Cherry argued that “being dragged out of the EU” is reason enough to hold a fresh vote. Johnson refused to hold a new Scottish independence referendum.