ABCC Brexit Update - Parliament Resumes After Prorogation Ruled Unlawful - 27 September 2019
In what has been yet another momentous week in British politics, the UK Supreme Court ruled on 24 September that PM Johnson’s prorogation (suspension) of Parliament earlier this month was unlawful.
Announcing the Court’s decision following contradictory lower court rulings in England and Scotland, Supreme Court President Lady Hale stated, “The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”
The Court’s decision cleared the way for the immediate recall of Parliament by the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow on 25 September.
PM Boris Johnson was subsequently forced to return to London from the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
As background, Parliament does not traditionally sit at the end of September / very beginning of October to make time for the annual Liberal Democrat, Labour and Conservative party conferences. PM Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament had been scheduled to take place between 9 September and 14 October, when a new Queen’s Speech to set out a new legislative agenda by the Government would be held.
Whilst welcomed by pro-Remain MPs, the Supreme Court’s decision to end the suspension was met with derision by pro-Leave MPs. Leader of the House of Commons (and Conservative Brexiteer) Jacob Rees-Mogg called the move was a “constitutional coup”.
Upon its return, debate in the House of Commons was particularly hostile with Remain MPs in outcry following PM Johnson’s statement that MPs would only be “properly safe” once they deliver Brexit.
Following the Supreme Court’s ruling and the recently passed “Benn Bill” (legally requiring PM Johnson to request a Brexit extension from the EU from 31 October to 31 January 2020 if he is unable to secure a Withdrawal Deal by 19 October), Johnson was once again blocked by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn from calling a snap General Election. Despite the “Benn Bill”, PM Johnson has repeatedly stated that he will not ask for a further Brexit extension beyond 31 October.
MPs also voted (289-306) to refuse a parliamentary recess for the planned Conservative Party Conference in Manchester next Monday 1 October - Wednesday 3 October. Downing Street has subsequently announced that Conservative MPs will operate a “shift rota” to attend the conference in fear that opposition MPs will seize further control of parliamentary business in their absence.
At the Liberal Democrat Party Conference in Bournemouth last week, members voted that in the event a General Election produced a majority for the pro-European party, their Government would revoke Article 50, the EU’s secession clause, to cancel Brexit without a second referendum.
Meanwhile, at the Labour Party Conference in Brighton earlier this week, the party confirmed their policy to renegotiate their own Brexit deal with the EU and then hold a second referendum on the outcome of that deal or to remain in the EU. Causing further divisions within his traditionally pro-European party, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced that in any such referendum, he would remain neutral.
Separately, lead EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said on 26 September that the UK has yet to provide “legal and operational” proposals to solve the impasse over the Northern Irish backstop. According to reports, the UK is expected to provide further proposals following the Conservative Party Conference next week.
The ABCC and Brexit
The ABCC will continue to follow these developments closely. We look forward to keeping members up to date with the very latest from London and what it possibly means for the Australian-British business community. Earlier ABCC Brexit updates can be found on the ABCC Blog.
If you would like to receive more frequent Brexit updates or have any questions, please feel free to contact our office on firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Paul O'Hagan, General Manager, Victoria, South Australia & Western Australia