New Scottish courts bid to stop Boris Johnson from forcing through a no-deal Brexit

The Scottish courts will be asked to rule that the Queen can ignore a request from the next prime minister to suspend Parliament, in a cross-party effort to stop Boris Johnson from forcing through a no-deal Brexit.

Tuesday, 23rd July 2019, 7:56 am
Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his office in Westminster. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Lawyers acting on behalf of a group of MPs from Labour, the SNP, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Greens have written to the UK government’s top law officer in Scotland, informing him of their intention to sue over Mr Johnson’s threat to prorogue Parliament.

The former foreign secretary and London MAYOR is expected to be crowned the victor in the Tory leadership contest this morning, paving the way for him to enter 10 Downing Street tomorrow afternoon.

But the civil war brewing within Mr Johnson’s party over his impending premiership escalated sharply before the result was announced, with the resignation of a minister who worked alongside him at the Foreign Office.

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Conservative party leadership contender Boris Johnson leaving his office in Westminster. Picture: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire

Sir Alan Duncan quit two days before the new prime minister takes office, saying that Mr Johnson’s “fly by the seats of his pants, haphazard” leadership style would lead him “smack into a crisis of government”.

Mr Duncan claimed he wanted his former boss to succeed in power, but attempted to force a vote on “the merits of the newly chosen leader of the Conservative Party” today in what was seen as an attempt to embarrass and undermine Mr Johnson on the eve of his premiership. The request for a debate was rejected by the Commons Speaker.

Former leadership contender Rory Stewart also confirmed yesterday that he would quit as International Development Secretary rather than server under Mr Johnson.

Chancellor Philip Hammond and Justice Secretary David Gauke have already said they will resign rather than be sacked by Mr Johnson.

In a biting resignation letter, Mr Duncan said he had “served with two very different foreign secretaries” – Mr Johnson and his leadership rival, Jeremy Hunt.

He also warned of the damage to Britain’s standing from Brexit, saying: “The UK does so much good in the world. It is tragic that just when we could have been the dominant intellectual and political force throughout Europe, and beyond, we have had to spend every day working beneath the dark cloud of Brexit.”

A poll carried out ComRes for the campaign group 38 Degrees last night found that 43 per cent of voters would be less likely to support the Conservatives if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.

Half of voters believe a no-deal scenario would lead to staffing shortages in the NHS and 65 per cent say they fear the cost of “daily essentials” will rise.

Mr Johnson’s refusal to rule out suspending Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit has angered a growing number of Tory MPs, with 47 defying the whip last week to help defeat the government in a vote on a measure that also seeks to stop prorogation.

In their petition to the Court of Session, the cross party group will seek a “declarator” ruling that the prime minister cannot lawfully advise the Queen to suspend parliament.

The case is being brought before the Scottish courts because they sit through August, allowing a ruling to be made before MPs return in September from the summer recess.

Politicians supporting the effort include the new Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, Labour’s Ian Murray and Geraint Davies, the SNP’s Joanna Cherry, independent MPs Heidi Allen and Angela Smith, and Plaid Cymru’s Hywel Williams. A number of peers are also involved, including the Green Party’s Baroness Jones.

The petitioners will use precedent created by a previous cross-party legal action that established the UK can unilaterally revoke Article 50.

A letter from lawyers Balfour & Manson asks Advocate General for Scotland Lord Keen to respond within seven days.

The legal action is being crowdfunded, and is supported by Jolyon Maugham QC of the Good Law Project, who backed the Article 50 case that went to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Mr Murray, the Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said “taking back control surely didn’t mean shutting down Parliament”.

Mr Murray added: “This exposes yet another vacuous lie of the Leave campaign.

“Boris Johnson’s dangerous and reckless proposal to shut Parliament down is undemocratic and simply cannot go unchallenged.

“The future of the country is at stake, and working together across parties in the best interests of the people of the entire UK has never been more important.”

Mr Johnson is expected to make his first statement to the Commons on Thursday morning to set out his plans for Brexit, on the final sitting day before the summer recess.

Tomorrow afternoon, Mrs May is set to leave Downing Street for Buckingham Palace after speaking to staff following Prime Minister’s Questions.

In what is expected to be his final column for the Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson insisted a Brexit deal can be secured by 31 October and said it was time the country rediscovered its “sense of mission”.

Referencing the 50th anniversary of the moon landing: “If they could use hand-knitted computer code to make a frictionless re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere in 1969, we can solve the problem of frictionless trade at the Northern Irish border.

“There is no task so simple that government cannot over-complicate if it doesn’t want to do it. And there are few tasks so complex that humanity cannot solve if we have a real sense of mission to pull them off.

“It is time this country recovered some of its can-do spirit.”

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP said a Johnson premiership meant “Scotland faces the very real threat of being dragged down the road to economic and social Brexit self-harm”.

“Rather than fanatically fanning the flames of a devastating no-deal Brexit, Boris Johnson must take a step back from the brink and, for once in his career, act in the national interest,” Mr Blackford said.

“I warn Boris Johnson against building a bunker-mentality government that would shut off any attempts at seeking a meaningful route out of the Brexit crisis.”