Closed Brexit: Boris Johnson’s government says parliament to remain suspended — as it happened

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The latest twist in the Brexit saga has seen Scotland’s highest court rule that Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue parliament was unlawful.

Join us throughout the day as we bring you the latest news and insights from FT reporters on this developing drama.


Scotland’s highest court rules prorogation of parliament unlawful

Scotland’s highest court has ruled that the prorogation of parliament was unlawful, reports Mure Dickie from Edinburgh.

However, it said it will not seek to recall parliamentarians before the UK Supreme Court makes a final decision on the issue.

Colin Sutherland, Lord Carloway, Lord President of Edinburgh’s Court of Session, ruled in a case brought by more than 70 parliamentarians to stop prime minister Boris Johnson from suspending parliament.

The Edinburgh court’s lower outer house had ruled last week that the prorogation was a matter of “high policy and political judgment” and not something that courts could pass judgment on.

But Lord Carloway said the inner court’s judges had agreed it was unlawful.

A draft of the court ruling said the prime minister’s decision to advise the Queen to prorogue parliament was “unlawful because it had the purpose of stymying parliament”.


Lawyer who petitioned for case says prorogation should be lifted instantly

Jo Maugham, a lawyer who was one of the petitioners behind the case, told the Financial Times he believed the lifting of the prorogation should now be instant given the government has not applied to the Supreme Court to halt it, reports Jim Pickard.

Our understanding is that parliament is unprorogued, we think that in order for the effect of the judgment today to be suspended, the government has to make an application to have it suspended, the government has made no application.

Mr Maugham said MPs would be able to use the extra time to try to “break through the Gordian Knot” of Brexit in the coming weeks.

He described the judgment as a historic triumph.

If it were to be the law that the courts now could not get involved with a decision by the prime minister, a decision that parliament doesn’t get to vote on – to suspend parliament – we would now be living in a dictatorship where the prime minister could suspend parliament for four years if he felt like it.


Labour’s Keir Starmer heads for London with call to ‘reopen the doors’ of parliament

News of the result broke while Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, was speaking at the Trades Union Congress in Brighton and he was informed of the result after he finished speaking, writes the FT’s social policy correspondent, Robert Wright.

“I’ve got to get back to London,” Mr Starmer said before collecting his thoughts and giving an immediate response.

“It was obvious, I think, to everybody that not only was shutting down parliament at a crucial time the absolutely wrong thing to do – we should be sitting each and every day to resolve this crisis – but that the prime minister was not telling the truth about why he was doing it.”

It summed up Boris Johnson’s character that he had not told the truth about the reasons for the suspension, Mr Starmer added.

Mr Starmer, a former lawyer and director of public prosecutions, added he was surprised the court had made the decision.

“What we need to do is get back to parliament and see if we can reopen up those doors and get Boris Johnson back in parliament and hold him properly to account,” he said.


UK government ‘disappointed’ by Scottish court ruling

The FT’s Sebastian Payne writes:

A government spokesperson has confirmed that it will appeal the Scottish court decision in the UK Supreme Court:

We are disappointed by today’s decision, and will appeal to the UK Supreme Court. The UK government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda. Proroguing Parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.

The hearing is expected to take place next week.


Sterling picks up speed after court ruling on parliament suspension

Sterling extended its gains after the Scottish court ruling, adding 0.3 per cent against the euro in early London trading.

The pound, which on Monday touched a low of €1.1090 against the single currency, has since risen 1.15 per cent. It was recently trading at €1.1223, just below its high of the week. If it breaches €1.1230, that will be sterling’s highest level against the euro since July 25.


Scottish judgment ‘embarrassing’ for Queen, think-tank says

The FT’s James Blitz writes:

Catherine Haddon, senior fellow at the Institute for Government, said: “This is very embarrassing for the Queen and for Buckingham palace. To have a judgment that the advice given to her by the prime minister was unlawful puts the Queen in a very awkward position.”

Dr Haddon said that MPs would have to wait until the Supreme Court judgment on September 17 to see whether parliament would continue to be prorogued.

“But if the Supreme Court upholds the Scottish decision, the Palace will very quickly be on to the prime minister saying: ‘What do you intend to do?’”


FCA shelves study on markets’ use of data amid Brexit pressures

Away from the court action, Caroline Binham, the FT’s financial regulation correspondent, writes that the demands of Brexit on the City of London have meant the UK’s financial regulator has decided to shelve a study on markets’ use of data.

Firms, including ones outside the financial sector, were due to be asked this autumn to submit information to the Financial Conduct Authority’s study of how wholesale markets are using data.

But the FCA said in a statement that it had decided to postpone publication of the study to “allow firms to focus more time on EU Withdrawal”. It added that it was still committed to the topic and would undertake “diagnostic work” to try to understand any harm caused by firms’ new uses of data.

The statement reads:

“Innovation could increase barriers to access, including timely access, to data, and favour larger or incumbent firms, weakening competition. Some firms may be able to exploit market power as providers of critical data or data analytical tools.”

The FCA has previously warned that Brexit has meant it must strictly prioritise its workload. Meanwhile, the Treasury is reviewing the impact of financial regulation and is keen to reduce the burden on the City, particularly from multiple requests for information.


Ruling a first in three decades of constitutional ‘geekery’, says David Allen Green

David Allen Green, a contributor to the Financial Times who specialises in law, says he has not seen such a court decision in 30 years of “constitutional geekery” and working on legal issues.

He points out that Scottish law is different to the law of England and Wales, which includes a different approach to constitutional law matters.

A matter that is unconstitutional can also be unlawful in Scotland, even if held to be lawful by the High Court, he says on Twitter. He puts the chances of the action succeeding in London as “zero”.

Take a read of what he wrote before the ruling:

Boris Johnson subverts the rule of law


Joanna Cherry calls Scottish court ruling a ‘huge victory’

Sebastian Payne reports:

Joanna Cherry, the Scottish Nationalist party MP who led the legal case in Scotland against prorogation, has welcomed the ruling and called on Boris Johnson to bring back parliament (it is very unlikely he will listen):

Today’s ruling of the highest court in Scotland that Boris Johnson’s plans to shut down the UK Parliament ahead of Brexit are unlawful and unconstitutional is a huge victory and a vindication of our case. The prorogation must now be stopped.

The court agreed it is unlawful to suspend the UK Parliament for the specific purpose of preventing Parliament from scrutinising the Brexit process and holding this shambolic Tory government’s extreme Brexit plans to account.

We have uncovered more and more evidence that this was a plot by Boris Johnson and his cronies to prevent us from stopping them taking Scotland and the UK off a Brexit cliff edge by forcing through a damaging no-deal against the will of Parliament.

This ruling takes us one step closer to ensuring the UK government cancels their shameful prorogation and blatant plot to force through an extreme Brexit. Boris Johnson cannot be allowed to break the law with impunity.


Shadow attorney general welcomes Scottish court ruling

Shami Chakrabarti, the shadow attorney general, has welcomed the ruling, reports Sebastian Payne.

This ruling shows that, despite what Boris Johnson has spent his privileged life thinking, he is not above the law.

Labour will not allow his elitist shutdown of parliament to enable him to dodge scrutiny and force through a disastrous no-deal Brexit.


What exactly did the court rule?

For those of you keen to sink your teeth into the details of today’s ruling by the Inner House of Edinburgh’s Court of Session, below are some snippets of what Scotland’s highest court found, as laid out by the three judges hearing the case.

All three – Lord Carloway, Lord Brodie and Lord Drummond Young – found that the prime minister’s advice to the Queen was “motivated by the improper purpose of stymying parliament” and therefore unlawful.

You can read the full opinion of the court here


Scottish litigator doubtful parliament could reconvene

Jim Cormack, QC, a litigation expert at law firm Pinsent Masons, was sceptical about the argument by campaigner Jolyon Maugham and the MPs that the Court of Session judgment meant parliament could reconvene, reports Mure Dickie in Edinburgh.

As the Court of Session’s ruling is likely to be brought under review by the Supreme Court, the legal effect is that the judgement itself is suspended until the Supreme Court decides. It’s on hold for the moment.

Since the Edinburgh court had ruled the prorogation was “null”, the campaigners were right “in a sense”, Edinburgh-based Mr Cormack said, but by declining to make any ancillary orders the court had stopped short of requiring parliament to return.

The senior barrister said the decision of the Scottish appeals court “radically changes the legal landscape ahead of an expected hearing before the UK Supreme Court next week”.

Although each of the three appeal judges appears to have followed somewhat different legal reasoning, they have each reached the same result that the advice of the government to HM the Queen was unlawful and therefore also that the prorogation which followed that advice was also unlawful. On that basis the prorogation has been held to be of no effect.”


Opinion: Judicial independence is a fragile thing

Stephen Sedley, a former UK appeal court judge, wrote in the FT in 2017 on the constitutional role of the Supreme Court as it concerns Brexit. His words resonate today as the Scottish court decision thrusts the country deeper into a constitutional crisis.

Click here to read his view on FT Opinion.


Number 10 says it is not attacking the judgment

The FT’s Whitehall editor James Blitz writes:

In the course of the morning there have been suggestions by some media that Downing Street is blaming the Scottish judges for being politically biased.

But a Downing Street official told the FT: “We are not saying anything about the judges and Number 10 is not attacking the judgment.”

The assumption in Downing Street is that the question of whether the prorogation is legal or not will ultimately go to the Supreme Court on Tuesday. The High Court in England ruled last week that the prorogation was legal.

The Number 10 official said: “To anyone suggesting a change to the prorogation, I would say: are you suggesting overturning the verdict of the High Court last week ?”


Janus Henderson: ‘Air of chaos in every turn’ in Brexit process

The Scottish court ruling highlights how the “Brexit political process continues to exhibit an air of chaos at every turn”, according to Janus Henderson, the fund manager.

Oliver Blackbourn, a portfolio manager for Janus Henderson, notes, however, “while interesting in a future constitutional context, today’s legal judgment on the prorogation of parliament is perhaps now limited in its impact on the Brexit process.”

Here are his full remarks:

While interesting in a future constitutional context, today’s legal judgment on the prorogation of parliament is perhaps now limited in its impact on the Brexit process.

After all, legislation has already been passed to try and prevent a no-deal exit and the opposition parties had refused to allow an election prior to the end of October before parliament was suspended. The proroguing of parliament has done little more than accelerate the expected political battles and, perhaps, demonstrate that the current government maintains a measure of control over the House of Commons. The Brexit political process continues to exhibit an air of chaos at every turn.

Without pulling something extraordinary out of the bag – we wouldn’t completely rule it out – it is difficult to see how Prime Minister Boris Johnson now takes the UK out of the European Union on 31 October without a deal. The recent strengthening in sterling has reflected the diminished possibility of a Halloween hard Brexit.

The appreciation from below $1.21 reflects the pricing out of uncertainty over whether anti-no-deal MPs would be able to pass legislation to prevent the cliff-edge exit. Sterling may remain volatile going forward as a number of options are still open to the prime minister, however each comes at a cost to his government or to him personally.


Justice secretary warns Downing Street over bias suggestion

Robert Buckland, the justice secretary, has fired a warning shot at Downing Street over those briefings that the Scottish judges may have shown political bias in the prorogation judgment, reports Sebastian Payne.

He has tweeted:

Our judges are renowned around the world for their excellence and impartiality and I have total confidence in their independence in every case.


Dominic Grieve says PM should resign if he misled the Queen

The former conservative attorney-general Dominic Grieve has said that if it emerges Boris Johnson misled the Queen about his reasons for suspending parliament, he should resign.

Speaking on BBC News, Mr Grieve said:

It is absolutely central to our constitution that the relationship between the prime minister and the Queen is one of the utmost confidence and the utmost good faith.

So if it were to be the case that the government had misled the queen about the reasons for suspending parliament, and the motivations for it, that would be a very serious matter indeed.

Indeed in my view it would then be the moment for Mr Johnson to resign and very swiftly.

Mr Grieve, one of the 21 Tory rebel MPs who were expelled from the party last week for breaking rank over Brexit, said: “The prime minister has a duty of total candour towards the Queen when asking her to discharge her functions.”

If Mr Johnson had not been wholly truthful with the sovereign, Mr Grieve said he hoped both opposition and Conservative MPs would band together and “simply say: ‘it’s over’.”


Prorogation decision was lawful and ‘inherently political’, says High Court

The High Court in London said on Wednesday that the decision to prorogue parliament by Boris Johnson was lawful and “inherently political” and so not able to be reviewed by the courts as it released the reasons why it dismissed a legal challenge by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller last week.

The legal challenge by Ms Miller focused on whether Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen on suspending parliament for five weeks ahead of a Queen’s speech was lawful. Her case is now due to be heard by the Supreme Court, reports Jane Croft.

In a written ruling handed down on Wednesday, the High Court said it had ruled Ms Miller’s case was “not justiciable” and was incapable of being determined by the courts.

The three senior High Court judges, which include the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, said in the strongly worded ruling that the prime minister’s decisions to prorogue parliament and his advice to the Queen were “inherently political in nature and there are no legal standards against which to judge their legitimacy”, their ruling states.

“It is not a matter for the courts,” their ruling adds.

Ms Miller’s case along with the Scottish case are due to be considered by the UK’s Supreme Court for three days next week along with a case on proroguing before Belfast’s High Court brought by victims campaigner Raymond McCord that claims the government is breaching the Good Friday Agreement.


Farage lays out proposal for electoral pact with Tories

Nigel Farage, Brexit party leader, has set down his terms for an electoral pact with Boris Johnson, insisting that the prime minister must go a for a “clean break” no-deal exit from the EU and complete his purge of moderate one nation Tories, writes the FT’s political editor, George Parker.

Mr Farage said if Mr Johnson accepted his demands it could clear the way for a Tory/Brexit party non-aggression pact and help keep the Tory leader in Downing Street.

He said:

“We can be the best of friends or the worst of enemies.”

The Brexit party leader wants Mr Johnson to stand down Tory candidates in around 80 seats – mainly in Leave voting areas of South Wales, northern England and the Midlands – to give his candidates a clear run against Labour.

In exchange Mr Farage, whose party consistently polls 10-15 per cent and threatens Mr Johnson’s hopes of a parliamentary majority, would give candidates from a hard Brexit Tory party a clear run elsewhere.

Mr Johnson has categorically ruled out a deal with the Brexit party. The terms being set down by Mr Farage would in effect mean the Tories ceased to be a national party and was taking orders from another party.

But Mr Farage said the prime minister was approaching a fork in the road that would define the future shape of British politics: would Mr Johnson try to unite his fractured party around a compromise Brexit deal or push hard for a no-deal exit?


Labour MPs head for the Commons

A handful of Labour MPs have said they are returning to parliament, despite the fact that it remains suspended.

Kevin Brennan and Stephen Doughty – both Welsh parliamentarians – said they were returning to the House of Commons, insisting parliament is now “illegally prorogued”.

While the Scottish judgement today found prorogation to be unlawful, it did not seek to recall MPs, leaving that decision to a final ruling on the matter by the UK Supreme Court, which is expected next Tuesday.


Farage lashes out at ‘judicial interference’

If Downing Street is sending out mixed messages about whether it thinks the Scottish judges are biased, then Nigel Farage has no such qualms, writes Sebastian Payne.

The Brexit party leader has attacked the ruling on prorogation, saying it “smells of judicial interference”:

It’s an astonishing judgment. How can it be unlawful for a government to want to present a Queen’s Speech? Given this has been one of the longest-running governments for centuries in this country. It smells to me of judicial interference.

All this prorogation does, all this Queen’s speech does, is stop 10-15 hours of parliamentary debate during most which of it they would probably held up placards and protested. The arguments are incredibly weak.


Scottish Conservatives leader has ‘absolute confidence’ in judiciary

The acting leader of the Scottish Conservatives said he has “absolute confidence” in the Scottish judiciary system, after judges ruled that Tory prime minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament was unlawful.

MSP Jackson Carlaw said on Twitter, “we have absolute confidence in the independence and integrity of the Scottish judiciary.”


SNP’s Blackford demands Johnson recall parliament

Mure Dickie writes:

The Scottish National party’s leader at Westminster has written to prime minister Boris Johnson to demand the immediate recall of parliament following the Scottish Court of Session ruling that its suspension was illegal.

Ian Blackford accused Mr Johnson of “shutting down democracy” with every day that parliament remained suspended, and insisted there was no reason to wait until the UK Supreme Court heard an appeal to the Edinburgh court’s ruling next week.

The Court of Session ruled on Wednesday that prorogation was unlawful and thus “null and of no effect”.

“The UK government and your office of prime minister are not above the law,” Mr Blackford wrote.


Number 10 says parliament to remain suspended

The FT’s James Blitz writes:

The PM’s spokesman has just given a briefing to political journalists. He said Number 10 will abide by the Supreme Court’s ruling next week if the highest court in the land decides the suspension of parliament was illegal. In the meantime, parliament remains prorogued.

The spokesman made clear that, while Number 10 is disappointed by the Scottish decision, it has total respect for the independence of the judiciary.

In late 2016, senior Conservatives were highly critical of leading judges who defied Theresa May and ruled that parliament had to legislate the triggering of the Article 50 process.

This time, it doesn’t look like Boris Johnson wants to start generating headlines about judges being “enemies of the people.”


No rule against government using prorogation for ‘political advantage’, says court

This passage from the High Court’s ruling in the Miller case today is worth particular attention. (Credit to Matthew Holehouse at MLex for pointing it out.)

In it, the court says that parliament can be prorogued for various reasons which are not limited to preparing for the Queen’s Speech.

“…even if the prorogation under consideration in the present case was, as the claimant and the interveners contend, designed to advance the Government’s political agenda regarding withdrawal from the European Union rather than preparations for the Queen’s Speech, that is not territory in which a court can enter with judicial review.”

Petitioners in both London and Edinburgh have argued that the government had an ulterior motive in suspending parliament. But the court says that the process has been previously to “gain a legislative and so political advantage”.

Critically, this means that even if it is the case that the government is found to have prorogued parliament for its own ends, from a legal standpoint this is not against the rules.

All eyes on what the Supreme Court makes of this next Tuesday.


That’s it for today

Thank you to all who joined us today to discuss the unexpected ruling from Scotland’s top court.

To any central bank geeks out there: We’ll be running a double-header live blog tomorrow, covering the Turkish and then European Central Bank rate decisions. The excitement will kick off at 11am London time.