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Brexit: Judge to rule whether Parliament shutdown is legal

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The government insists prime minister Boris Johnson has not acted unlawfully
A judge is to rule on whether Boris Johnson's plan to shut down the UK Parliament for five weeks ahead of Brexit is lawful.The case was brought to the Court of Session in Edinburgh by a cross-party group of 75 parliamentarians, who argued the PM exceeded his powers.The government said the issue should be a political, rather than a legal, one.Lord Doherty heard submissions from both sides on Tuesday, and will deliver his ruling on Wednesday.The prime minister announced on 28 August he wanted to shut down Parliament - a process known as proroguing - ahead of a Queen's Speech on 14 October.
PM 'approved Parliament shutdown in mid-August'
His political opponents argue Mr Johnson's aim is to avoid parliamentary scrutiny and to stop them passing legislation that would prevent the UK leaving the European Union without a deal on 31 October.The UK government insists this is not the case, and says that proroguing Parliament will allow Mr Johnson to set out his "exciting" legislative plans in the Queen's Speech while still allowing sufficient time for MPs to debate Brexit. However, Mr Johnson declined to give a sworn statement to the court setting out his reasons for the shutdown.
Lord Doherty will announce his ruling in the case on Wednesday
It also emerged during Tuesday's court hearing he had appeared to approve the shutdown plan on 15 August - two weeks before publicly announcing it.The parliamentarians' lawyer, Aidan O'Neill QC, said the government had therefore "actively misled" the court, because its legal team had insisted the case brought by the group of largely pro-Remain MPs and peers was "academic, hypothetical and premature" despite the prorogation plan having already been signed off.
'Adverse inferences'
He also said the fact the prime minister had declined to give a sworn affidavit to the court meant it "can and should draw adverse inferences" about his true intentions. And he argued Mr Johnson was acting in an undemocratic and autocratic manner by refusing to be accountable to either the court or to Parliament - and claimed the prime minister's aim is to facilitate a no-deal Brexit.Mr O'Neill said: "This is not about public policy. It is fundamentally about the balance of power between the three arms of the state and an attempt, an illicit attempt, by the government, the executive, to upset that balance to bring itself above and over the legislature. "The courts, as guardians, of the constitution and rule of law are here to guard against that unconstitutional appropriation of power."
Brexit: Judge to rule whether Parliament shutdown is legal

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Aidan O'Neill QC told the court on Tuesday that the court had been actively misled over the government's prorogation plans
This was denied by the government's lawyer, David Johnston, who said when and for how long Parliament should be prorogued is a long-established political decision for the government, rather than a legal matter for the court to decide. Mr Johnston said: "This is political territory and decision making which cannot be measured against legal standards, but rather only by political judgements which must permit a degree of flexibility according to circumstances." He said Parliament would be able to sit "for certain periods" before 31 October, and the case was therefore "academic" because "the constitutional fear that the petitioners raise has been addressed by Parliament itself, in deciding when it wishes to sit". Mr Johnston added: "We are not, for example, faced with an executive which is out of control and seeking to close down Parliament. "This is a fast-moving and highly controversial situation. It is not a situation where the courts can properly impose additional legal standards on a legal process."The parliamentarians behind the legal challenge to the prime minister have been led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, supported by Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project. Their legal team previously enjoyed success when the European Court of Justice accepted their argument that the UK could unilaterally cancel Brexit without the consent of the other 27 EU member states.
Prorogation in a nutshell
Brexit: Judge to rule whether Parliament shutdown is legal

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This is different to "dissolving" Parliament - where all MPs give up their seats to campaign in a general election.The last two times Parliament was suspended for a Queen's Speech that was not after a general election, the closures lasted for four and 13 working days respectively.If this prorogation happens as expected, it will see Parliament closed for 23 working days. MPs have to approve recess dates, but they cannot block prorogation.
Boris Johnson
UK Parliament
Scotland Brexit
Brexit
British Constitution
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