A Scottish court on Friday makes its first decision in the legal battle launched by opponents of the Brexit against the suspension of the British Parliament announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a measure denounced as a "coup" by his critics.
Seized by a group of elected officials seeking to declare the suspension of Parliament illegal, the Edinburgh Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, will only make a provisional decision pending a hearing on the merits September 6th.
His judgment is nevertheless highly anticipated as the announcement of Boris Johnson offended the opposition and a large part of the British. A petition against the suspension of Parliament had collected some 1.6 million signatures Thursday night, thousands of people took to the streets to denounce "a coup" and other events are planned this weekend and Tuesday .
However, the Prime Minister has the right to suspend Parliament, after having been authorized by Queen Elizabeth.
This is the time to do it, in the final stretch before the fateful date of Brexit on October 31, and the length of the suspension (five weeks) that are disputed.
Suspending the Parliament session for such a long time, Boris Johnson is suspected of wanting to prevent members to block a Brexit without agreement, which the government wants to implement if it does not find a compromise with the European Union on conditions for the EU exit on 31 October.
Boris Johnson was careful not to tie Brexit to his decision to suspend Parliament. He said he wanted to take advantage of this time to develop and then present his national policy agenda as a new prime minister - he succeeded Theresa May on July 24.
If the Prime Minister's detractors can show that his motivation is more for Brexit than for national politics, then the courts could declare his decision illegal.
- "Low chance" -
The action before the Edinburgh Court of Session was initiated by a group of about 75 pro-European parliamentarians. For several weeks they had been opposed to the possibility of a suspension, which Boris Johnson had not ruled out. Their appeal was heard on Thursday.
Their lawyer Aidan O'Neill assured that the suspension was "unprecedented". "The government, based on a parliamentary majority, seeks to impose its power by suspending Parliament," he argued. "It's unconstitutional and this court must stop it."
Roddy Dunlop, the Government representative, asked the Court to reject the request, in particular because the suspension has already been authorized.
But Aidan O'Neill believes that the queen should reconsider her authorization if the court declares Boris Johnson's decision illegal, as the monarch "is not above the law".
According to Stefan Theil, a researcher at the Oxford University School of Law, the best parliamentarians could get would be a judgment of the Court declaring Boris Johnson's decision illegal. But that would not necessarily force him to ask the queen to reconsider the suspension.
There is only "a weak chance" for the Court to impose a reversal of Parliament's suspension, added the expert interviewed by Bloomberg.
- Belfast and London -
Another appeal filed on behalf of Northern Irish human rights activist Raymond McCord will also be considered in an emergency on Friday morning in the High Court of Northern Ireland.
"Of course, Boris Johnson has the power to advise the Queen to suspend Parliament, but what we are saying is that his motivation to do so is illegal because he is clearly trying to bypass Parliament," he said. AFP Ciaran O'Hare, representing Raymond McCord.
And a businesswoman, Gina Miller, has also filed an action in the English courts, hoping for a hearing in London next week. This anti-Brexit activist had already won a judicial battle in 2017 to force the government, then led by Theresa May, to consult Parliament on the withdrawal process.
© 2019 AFP