Boris Johnson set to lose supreme court battle, legal insiders claim

George Martin
·3-min read
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson attends a roundtable at Downing Street in London, Britain, September 19, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/Pool
Boris Johnson could be forced to reverse his decision to prorogue Parliament. (Reuters)

Boris Johnson looks set to lose the high-profile supreme court battle over his decision to prorogue Parliament, legal experts have claimed.

With the verdict expected to be announced early next week, insiders told The Observer there is a growing belief the court will rule against the government.

Philippe Sands QC, professor of law at University College London, told the newspaper: “The dominant feeling among informed observers is that the government is on the ropes and it’s going to lose.”

While another legal insider, who did not wish to be named, said the UK is heading towards a “constitutional eruption of volcanic proportions” if the court finds against the government.

A general view of UK Supreme Court hearing in London, Britain September 17, 2019 in this screen grab taken from video. Supreme Court Feed via REUTERS   THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
The supreme court hearing testimony about the suspension of Parliament last week. (Reuters)

A panel of 11 justices heard appeals over three days arising out of separate legal challenges in England and Scotland, in which leading judges reached different conclusions.

At the close of the unprecedented hearing on Thursday, the court’s president Lady Hale said the judges hope to give their decision early next week.

She said: “I must repeat that this case is not about when and on what terms the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.

“The result of this case will not determine that. We are solely concerned with the lawfulness of the Prime Minister’s decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament on the dates in question.


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“As we have heard, it is not a simple question and we will now carefully consider all the arguments that have been presented to us.”

Depending on the legal basis upon which the judges reach their conclusions, Parliament may have to reconvene if Mr Johnson – who has refused to rule out a second suspension – loses the case.

Documents submitted to the court revealed three possible scenarios in the event the court rules the suspension was unlawful, two of which could see the Prime Minister make a fresh decision to prorogue Parliament.

The other outcome could see the court order Parliament to be recalled, but Mr Johnson’s lawyers urged the judges to consider the “very serious practical consequences” involved in this option, as it would require a new Queen’s Speech and State Opening of Parliament.

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seen outside Downing Street in London, Britain, September 4, 2019. REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has claimed Britain will be a “good global citizen” after Brexit. (Reuters)

Lawyers for Mr Johnson’s opponents said Parliament should meet “urgently” after the ruling to decide what to do in the event the prorogation is declared “null” by the court.

Asked shortly after the hearing ended to rule out proroguing Parliament for a second time, Mr Johnson said: “I have the greatest respect for the judiciary in this country.

“The best thing I can say at the moment whilst their deliberations are continuing is that obviously I agree very much with the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice and others who found in our favour the other day.”

He added: “I will wait to see what transpires.”

It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Britain will be a “good global citizen” after Brexit.

Mr Raab intends to use a meeting of the United Nations general assembly in New York next week to stress the UK’s international influence after it leaves the European Union.

Ahead of his visit to the US, Mr Raab said: “As we leave the EU, the UK will walk tall in the world and step up our commitment to being a good global citizen.

“Our message to the United Nations is that we will lead by example and work tirelessly to strengthen the rules-based international system – to tackle climate change, protect journalists from attack, and uphold freedom of navigation on the high seas.”

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