PM Johnson to face the music in parliament after Supreme Court blow

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Wed, 25 Sep 2019 - 12:25 GMT

© AFP / by Ola CICHOWLAS | Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson heads to Moscow for the first official visit by a miniter from London in five years.

© AFP / by Ola CICHOWLAS | Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson heads to Moscow for the first official visit by a miniter from London in five years.

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned home from a foreign trip on Wednesday to face parliament in what is likely to be a stormy session after a humiliating Supreme Court ruling that he had unlawfully suspended the assembly.

Having lost his majority and a series of votes about Brexit in the House of Commons, Johnson had shut down the legislature for five weeks. But the court said on Tuesday he had done so without justification and the closure was null and void.

Cutting short a visit to New York, Johnson flew back to London and was scheduled to address a reconvened Commons later on Wednesday having flatly rejected calls to resign in light of the Supreme Court judgment.

The chamber remains deadlocked over the Brexit issue, with Johnson intent on leading Britain out of the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without an exit agreement while most lawmakers are determined to block a no-deal scenario.

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Wednesday now was not the time for parliament to try to bring him down.

“Quite simply our first priority is to prevent a no-deal exit from the EU on the 31st of October,” Corbyn said in an interview on BBC Radio 4.

Before the suspension, parliament had passed a law requiring Johnson to ask the EU to push back the deadline if no exit deal was agreed by Oct. 19. Corbyn said he and other opposition legislators would focus on ensuring that Johnson abided by that law.

Asked by reporters in New York on Tuesday how he planned to overcome that legal obstacle, Johnson simply ignored the question and insisted Brexit would take place on Oct. 31 come what may.

Johnson has repeatedly said his preferred Brexit outcome would be to agree an exit deal with the EU’s 27 other members before the deadline and that he was hopeful he would achieve that.

However, EU negotiators say he has made no new proposals capable of breaking the deadlock over the issue of how to manage the border between Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, after Brexit.

“STAIN ON HIS CHARACTER”

Reactions to the Supreme Court’s blistering ruling showed that divisions were deeper than ever.

“This ruling leaves a stain on his character and competence,” the Financial Times newspaper said in its editorial. “Faced with such a damning judgment, any premier with a shred of respect for British democracy and the responsibilities of his office would resign.”

At the other end of the spectrum, the Brexit-supporting Sun newspaper denounced the Supreme Court ruling as a “perilous coup by political judges”.

“Boris, victim of yesterday’s staggering legal coup, has to respect this court and its supposed impartiality. But in one unprecedented act of constitutional vandalism, 11 judges became an unelected political entity, granting themselves immense power to overrule our government and queen,” it said in its leader column.

The Sun was echoing Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons and one of the most ardent advocates of Brexit, who was reported by British newspapers to have described the ruling as a “constitutional coup” during a conference call with Johnson and other cabinet members on Tuesday.

Johnson himself was combative after the ruling, saying in New York that he strongly disagreed with it and complaining that that too many people were trying to thwart Brexit against the will of the people.

But one of his own former cabinet members, Amber Rudd, said it would be irresponsible for the government to cast the ruling as an anti-Brexit move when Johnson’s defence all along was that his decision to suspend parliament in the first place had nothing to do with Brexit.

Former minister Dominic Grieve, an anti-Johnson rebel within the ruling Conservative Party, accused the prime minister of behaving “like a bull in a china shop” and taking a sledgehammer to the constitution on a daily basis.

“Boris Johnson has decided to be a populist politician. That’s a very dangerous thing to do, because stirring up people against parliament is not going to solve the country’s problems. It will create more anger, more tension,” he told Sky News.

Opposition leader Corbyn said in the BBC interview that once a no-deal Brexit had been averted, it would be appropriate to move a motion of no confidence to force out the government and then have a general election.

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