The Supreme Court vs the Government

The Supreme Court has ruled that the prime minister, Boris Johnson, acted unlawfully in proroguing Parliament.

The ruling 

The 11 Supreme Court justices were unanimous in their ruling this morning.  Lady Hale, the president of the Supreme Court, said therefore that Parliament has effectively not been prorogued.

The Court however has said it should not rule on whether the prime minister’s motives to progue. In other words, it will not say whether Boris mislead the Queen, which will come as a relief for No.10.

 What’s next?

The immediate impact is that MPs are now set to return to the Commons within days.  Expect ministers to be grilled out the prorogation, the state of Brexit negotiations and no-deal planning.

The medium-term impact is more difficult to say.  We are yet to hear from No.10 and Boris seems committed to following through on his promise to leave the EU on 31 October with or without a deal.

However, earlier this month, MPs passed a bill to block him from going ahead with a no-deal exit. So we may see further battles between the Government, Parliament and the courts if No.10 decides to get around the law and the will of Parliament.

 The longer-term impact

Looking further ahead still, the intervention by the Courts in the business of government goes against the British tradition of the separation of powers between the Executive, Parliament and the judiciary.

Now we have Parliament positioning itself in place of the Government, substituting for the Executive. The judiciary has become politicised. But neither have a legitimate claims to executive powers – they were not voted by the people to be the government of the day.

If the shift in powers continues away from the Executive and towards Parliament and judges, the country may become ungovernable.

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