Critics Demand Boris Johnson’s Resignation After Ruling Goes Against Him

September 25, 2019by Christina Boyle and Laura King
Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses US business leaders at Hudson Yards in New York on Sept. 24, 2019, after judges at the Supreme Court in London ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful. (Stefan Rousseau/Pa Wire/Abaca Press/TNS)

LONDON — Britain’s Supreme Court dealt Prime Minister Boris Johnson a staggering blow Tuesday, unanimously ruling that he acted unlawfully in suspending Parliament earlier this month during a crucial countdown to the country’s departure from the European Union.

The ruling, which immediately sparked calls for Johnson’s resignation, throws the already messy Brexit process into a next-level degree of disarray.

Johnson, in New York, said he would respect the verdict although he “profoundly” disagreed with it. At a side-by-side news conference with President Donald Trump at the United Nations, he brushed aside talk of stepping down, with the U.S. leader offering an enthusiastic new endorsement of his beleaguered counterpart.

“I’ll tell you, I know him well, he’s not going anywhere — don’t worry about him,” Trump told reporters. “It takes a man like this to get it done.”

The prime minister said the important thing now was to “get on and deliver Brexit.”

Even in a three-year Brexit saga filled with extraordinary twists and turns, the Supreme Court confrontation stood out, raising wrenching questions about the rule of law, the role of Parliament and the government’s relationship with Britain’s long-serving monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth is supposed to remain above the political fray and serve as a symbol of national unity, but Johnson’s tenure as prime minister has seen her drawn into the Brexit drama. The monarch, by long tradition, grants permission for a parliamentary suspension requested by the prime minister.

The Supreme Court ruling, however, strongly suggested that Johnson misled the queen about his reasons for suspending lawmakers’ work — which was, in the eyes of some critics, an unforgivable offense.

The country is scheduled to leave the EU on Oct. 31, and Johnson has insisted he wants to negotiate a withdrawal accord with the bloc. But the prime minister, who took office in late July, has not committed to obeying a law passed by Parliament earlier this month saying that if he can’t produce such an accord, he must seek a delay.

Johnson’s seeming game of chicken with EU officials — using the threat of a no-deal departure as a negotiating ploy — alarmed lawmakers, including many from the prime minister’s own Conservative Party.

Leaving without a withdrawal agreement could threaten supplies of some food and medicines and snarl supply chains, according to scenarios produced by Johnson’s own government. Economists, who generally say that even a negotiated departure would leave Britons poorer, say a no-deal exit would be a shock that could plunge the country into recession.

In its sharply worded ruling, the high court rejected Johnson’s stated rationale for suspending Parliament for five weeks as the Brexit deadline approached. His government at the time characterized it as a routine break between sessions that would give the prime minister a clean slate for setting his domestic agenda — a contention that was met by a loud outcry from opponents, together with legal challenges.

There were audible gasps in the courtroom as the high court’s president, Brenda Hale, read out Tuesday’s verdict. She said the suspension was “unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions, without reasonable justification.”

Johnson was to fly back to London overnight in time for Parliament’s expected meeting Wednesday.

“Obviously this is a verdict we will respect,” he said. “I don’t think that it’s right, but we will go ahead, and of course Parliament will come back.”

Brexit has caused enormous upheaval in British politics, driving out two prime ministers and putting unprecedented strains on the country’s democratic institutions. Now Johnson’s grip on power could be imperiled.

Michael Gordon, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Liverpool, called the ruling “astonishing,” adding: “It’s difficult to imagine how it could be more disastrous” for Johnson’s government.

Even as Johnson’s allies insisted he would not change course on Brexit, his political opponents said his position had become untenable. Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn interrupted his party conference in the seaside city of Brighton to call for the election of “a government that respects democracy.”

“I invite Boris Johnson … to consider his position and become the shortest-serving prime minister there has ever been,” he said.

Jo Swinson, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats, said Johnson was “not fit to be prime minister.”

Joanna Cherry of the Scottish National Party, who brought forward a case that resulted in a stinging ruling against Johnson by Scotland’s highest civil court earlier this month, said Johnson should “have the guts for once to do the decent thing and resign.”

And even some Brexit hard-liners who have allied with the 55-year-old prime minister in his push for a no-deal Brexit rather than a delay took the opportunity to pile on.

The head of the Brexit Party, Nigel Farage, said sending lawmakers home at such a critical moment was “the worst political decision ever.” Farage’s party was created this year solely to push for leaving the EU on schedule regardless of the consequences.

———

Special correspondent Boyle reported from London and staff writer King from Washington.

———

©2019 Los Angeles Times

Visit the Los Angeles Times at www.latimes.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Foreign Affairs

Supreme Court Upholds Prostitution Pledge for AIDS Funding
Supreme Court
Supreme Court Upholds Prostitution Pledge for AIDS Funding
June 29, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court upheld a provision of federal law Monday that requires foreign affiliates of U.S.-based health organizations to denounce prostitution as a condition of receiving taxpayer money to fight AIDS around the world.  Writing for the majority in the 5-3 ruling, Justice Brett... Read More

US-UK Free Trade Agreement Stalled Over Ag Disputes
Trade
US-UK Free Trade Agreement Stalled Over Ag Disputes
June 22, 2020
by Sara Wilkerson

Trade agreement talks between the United States and the United Kingdom have been tabled for the foreseeable future over a disagreement concerning agricultural practices. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer revealed the impasse during testimony before the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Lighthizer, who spent... Read More

Bolton Book Shows Trump Eager to Help Autocrats in US Courts
Foreign Affairs
Bolton Book Shows Trump Eager to Help Autocrats in US Courts

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump repeatedly sought to interfere in the U.S. judicial system to curry favor with leaders from Turkey to China, according to a new book by former National Security Adviser John Bolton. At a Group of 20 meeting in 2018, Trump told President... Read More

Bolton Book Says Trump Sought Xi’s 2020 Help, Roiling Race Anew
Political News
Bolton Book Says Trump Sought Xi’s 2020 Help, Roiling Race Anew

WASHINGTON — Former national security adviser John Bolton writes in a new book that President Donald Trump asked Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help him win reelection by buying more U.S. farm products, according to an excerpt published by The Wall Street Journal. The disclosure is... Read More

Report Suggests Pandemic Underscored Importance of Sustainable Fisheries Management
Environment
Report Suggests Pandemic Underscored Importance of Sustainable Fisheries Management
June 11, 2020
by Jacob Pederson

Global demand for fish has reached an all-time high despite the economic and supply challenges posed by COVID-19.  This year, the world consumed enough fish for every man, woman, and child on the planet to have about 45 pounds each. At over 197 million tons total,... Read More

Lawmakers Ejected in Hong Kong Debate on Chinese Anthem Bill
Foreign Affairs
Lawmakers Ejected in Hong Kong Debate on Chinese Anthem Bill

HONG KONG (AP) — Three pro-democracy lawmakers were ejected from Hong Kong's legislative chamber Thursday morning, disrupting the second day of debate on a contentious bill that would criminalize insulting or abusing the Chinese national anthem. The legislature’s president, Andrew Leung, suspended the meeting minutes after... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top