he High Court of England and Wales on Friday morning rejected a legal challenge against the British government’s decision to prorogue Parliament.
The ruling is likely to be appealed to the Supreme Court, Britain’s highest judicial body, which has penciled in September 17 to hear the case.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at the end of August that he would suspend Parliament from mid-September to mid-October, just before the UK is due to exit the EU on October 31, so that the government can announce a new legislative program.
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In a judicial review of that decision, brought by campaigner Gina Miller who defeated the government over another Brexit issue two years ago, the High Court was told parliament had never been suspended for so long in the last 40 years.
Miller’s lawyer, David Pannick, told the court on Thursday that the prime minister had abused his powers by suspending parliament.
Pannick said the case was not about whether the UK should leave the EU or on what terms, nor was it a criticism of Queen Elizabeth II, who agreed to the government’s request for a suspension.
Instead, he said, there was no precedence for such legal action. “Our response is that there is no precedence because no prime minister in modern history has abused his power” to advise the queen to suspend parliament for so long, he added.
James Eadie, the government lawyer, said the question of suspension was “inherently and fundamentally” political and not a matter for the courts.
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The legal challenge lost some of its impact after lawmakers voted this week to force Johnson to seek a three-month delay to Brexit rather than leaving without an agreement on October 31, and there could soon be a general election.
On Wednesday, a Scottish court hearing a similar case ruled that Johnson’s decision was not one for judges to decide. A similar legal challenge in Northern Ireland will also be heard on Friday.
Miller had previously mounted a successful legal challenge to former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government over its authority to leave the EU without a vote in parliament. In the present case, she’s being backed by former Conservative Prime Minister John Major and Shami Chakrabarti, the opposition Labour Party’s top legal adviser.
sri/rt (Reuters, AP)