This article was published by the Edinburgh Evening News on 11th September 2019. You can also read the Evening News version online, here.
Brexit is a word that has become a regular in our vocabulary. It is claimed to have been invented by Peter Wilding who is the author of the bestselling book What Next: Britain’s Future in Europe. This week the public have started to use another word that wouldn’t really have crossed the lips of many of the population before – prorogation.
On Monday evening (well it was actually early Tuesday morning), parliament was prorogued for five weeks in advance of the Queen’s speech on 14 October. It is the longest prorogation since 1930. That means parliament is suspended so MPs are prevented from holding the Government to account at a time of national crisis. Or is it?
We live in a democracy that separates the Government from the legal system. That allows any member of the public to challenge the Government in court if they feel they have acted unlawfully. That is why I, and over 70 of my MP and peer colleagues, took the Prime Minister to Scotland’s Supreme Court, in Edinburgh. We petitioned the court to determine that the suspension of parliament was for the purposes of preventing debate and decisions rather than for the Queen’s Speech.
The decision yesterday by three of Scotland’s top judges was devastating for the Government. They declared the prorogation of Parliament to be unlawful, stating that the Government’s purpose was to “stymie the operation of Parliament”. The decision of the court was unanimous. We knew that Boris Johnson wanted to shut down Parliament to force through his ideological “no deal” Brexit. It was never about a new session of Parliament and the judges have agreed with this assessment. If the Government has any belief in the rule of law, then Parliament must be recalled immediately. Sadly, I do not believe the Government will do so, although I hope I am wrong. More likely, they will demonstrate their continued contempt for anyone or any institution which does not share their view.
We now know that Boris Johnson was dishonest to the Queen about the need for prorogation. He was untruthful to the country about the benefits of Brexit. He has made claims that he will not abide by the law, passed in Parliament, about seeking an extension to the Brexit deadline.
He has politicised the police, shut down parliament, derided the judges, and disregarded the law. He has lied too many times and that is why parliament didn’t vote for an early general election on his terms as we don’t trust him.
He must comply with the law of this country and get a positive vote in Parliament for a deal with the EU or no deal by October 19 or seek a Brexit extension to January 31, 2020. That takes no deal off the table and pulls the country back from the brink.
It is clear from the response of the PM that he would rather just do away with inconvenient courts which don’t back him? We live in a democracy with an independent judiciary, thank goodness, but this Government is moving dangerously close to creating a dictatorship and that must concern us all.
If the decision is upheld in the UK Supreme Court next week, then the Prime Minister’s position will be untenable. He will have to resign.
In the meantime, we need Parliament up and running so I can represent my constituents and fight to prevent a catastrophic no deal Brexit. Then we need to settle this issue once and for all with a People’s Vote to give you the final say. Only this can bring clarity, closure and democratic legitimacy after three years of the Government promising to deliver the undeliverable.