LONDON – Britain’s highest court ruled Tuesday that Prime Minster Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful.
The decision could have wide-ranging political ramifications for Britain’s efforts to leave the European Union – Brexit – and Johnson, who is attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York. Johnson has insisted the move to suspend Parliament until Oct. 14 was routine, reflected his legislative agenda and was not related to Brexit.
Johnson has refused to say whether he would resign if he is found to have broken the law, or will seek to shut down Parliament again if it’s ordered to reopen.
“The effect on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme,” said Lady Hale, president of Britain’s Supreme Court, in announcing the verdict.
Johnson’s office said it was still “processing” the outcome.
Britain’s Brexit deadline is Oct. 31.
“What will come next is anyone’s guess but I’ll be very surprised if Johnson doesn’t have another card up his sleeve,” said Craig Erlam, a market analyst at Oanda, an online brokerage, in emailed comments. The Brexit soap opera is just getting started.”
Johnson told reporters traveling with him to the U.N. on Monday that “Parliament has had three years to discuss this issue – and will be able to come back and discuss Brexit after the European Council (summit) on October the 17 and 18.”
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Johnson is an outspoken Brexit advocate willing to leave the EU without a deal. He has been at odds with Parliament, which has passed a law requiring the government to seek an extension to the Brexit deadline if no Brexit deal is reached by Oct. 19. He has vowed not to do that, though he says the government will obey the law.
The suspension of Parliament sparked several legal challenges, to which lower courts have given contradictory rulings. England’s High Court said the move was a political rather than a legal matter, but Scottish court judges ruled that Johnson acted illegally.
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