Furious Geoffrey Cox today dismissed calls to quit over his advice that prorogation was legal – and raged that Parliament is ‘immorally’ blocking an election.
The Attorney General ridiculed claims that he should quit after his view was rejected by the UK’s most senior judges yesterday.
He told MPs that the Supreme Court had ‘made new law’ – something he said it was ‘perfectly entitled’ to do.
Mr Cox also went on the attack against Jeremy Corbyn and other opposition parties who are blocking Boris Johnson’s attempts to go to the country for a new mandate. He said a new bid to go to the country will be tabled ‘shortly’ and urged the ‘spineless gang’ to support it.
The Labour leader insisted this morning that a poll must not be triggered until the Brexit deadline has been pushed back beyond Mr Johnson’s ‘do or die’ date of October 31.
‘This Parliament is a dead Parliament, it has no right to sit on these green benches,’ he boomed.
‘This Parliament should have the courage to face the electorate. The time is coming when even these turkeys won’t be able to prevent Christmas.’
Mr Cox hinted that the government might bring forward a one-line Bill to hold an election on a fixed date. That would only require a simple majority, rather than the two-thirds threshold needed through the Fixed Term Parliaments Act route.
He also seemed to suggest that ministers have given up on trying to find loopholes in the Benn Act, which requires the PM to beg the EU for a Brexit extension if an agreement is not in place by October 19.
Asked if the government would abide by the Remainer law, he replied: ‘Yes.’
Mr Cox was also embroiled in brutal clashes with former Tory minister Philip Lee, who defected to the Lib Dems in protest at Brexit policy. When Dr Lee urged him to show ‘humility’, Mr Cox shot back that having refused to call a by-election when he switched parties the MP should be ‘on his knees’ begging forgiveness from constituents.
Reconvening the House earlier, Speaker John Bercow gloated that Mr Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament had been ‘expunged’ by the bombshell Supreme Court ruling.
Telling MPs ‘welcome back to our place of work’, he spelled out that the suspension triggered by the PM earlier this month had been made void – as legally it never happened.
The stage is now set for Boris Johnson to run the gauntlet in the chamber later.
The PM has returned to Downing Street after cutting short his trip to New York, and is set to renew his call for a general election to break the Brexit deadlock when he faces the wrath of MPs in the wake of the bombshell Supreme Court judgement.
Speaker John Bercow (left) gloated that Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament has been ‘expunged’ today as the Commons reopened. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (right) has been defending his legal advice
A triumphant Mr Bercow told MPs ‘welcome back to our place of work’ as the House started sitting again in the wake of the dramatic Supreme Court ruling
Jeremy Corbyn (pictured in the Commons today) has insisted that a poll must not be triggered until the Brexit deadline has been pushed back beyond October 31
Boris Johnson is back in Downing Street today after hot-footing it from the UN – and will run the gauntlet of MP anger this evening
Mr Cummings, pictured in Whitehall in central London this morning, has been widely blamed for the decision to try to prorogue Parliament
Mocking calls for him to resign today, Mr Cox said: ‘I have to say, that if every time I lost the case I was called upon to resign I probably would never had had a practice.
What happens next in the Brexit crisis?
Here is how the coming weeks could pan out:
Today: Parliament resumes after Supreme Court ruling that it was suspended illegally. PM flying back UN summit in New York.
Remainers are set to put in train fresh moves to sabotage the government’s Brexit strategy and rule out Boris Johnson forcing No Deal at Halloween.
September 29-October 2: Tory conference takes place in Manchester, but likely to be hampered by the fact Parliament is sitting.
Mr Johnson is due to give his first keynote speech as leader on the final day – but the scheduling is in turmoil as he should be taking PMQs at the same time.
The speech will be a crucial waypointer on how Brexit talks are going.
October 17-18: A crunch EU summit in Brussels, where Mr Johnson has vowed he will try to get a Brexit deal despite Remainers ‘wrecking’ his negotiating position.
October 19: If there is no Brexit deal by this date Remainer legislation obliges the PM to beg the EU for an extension to avoid No Deal.
Jeremy Corbyn has said that he will only let Mr Johnson trigger an election after an extension has been secured.
October 31: The current deadline for the UK to leave the EU.
November/December: An election looks inevitable, but Labour is hinting it might push the date back towards Christmas to humiliate the PM further.
‘The government accepts the judgement and accepts that it lost the case and at all times the government acted in good faith and in the belief that its approach was both lawful and constitutional.
‘These are complex matters on which senior and distinguished lawyers will disagree.’
He added: ‘Of course we respect the judgement of the court. Given the Supreme Court’s judgement, in legal terms the matter is settled.’
Mr Cox said normally legal advice would not be made public but he said he would ‘consider over the coming days’ whether there was a public interest in a ‘greater disclosure of the advice given to the government on this subject’.
He said: ‘I am not permitted to disclose the advice I may or may not have given to the government but I repeat: The matter is under consideration.’
He suggested the ruling by the Supreme Court had brought a written constitution a step closer.
The Attorney General has been facing demands to quit over his botched prorogation legal advice, while Mr Cummings is also under fire amid growing calls for him to be booted out of Downing Street.
Mr Cummings has been credited with masterminding Mr Johnson’s strategy since the latter won the keys to Downing Street at the end of July.
That strategy has seen Mr Johnson lose six Commons votes out of six, 21 Tory MPs stripped of the whip, the resignation of the PM’s brother, numerous clashes between the PM and angry members of the public and then yesterday’s devastating Supreme Court ruling.
Mr Johnson’s political opponents have demanded Mr Cummings be sacked while there is reportedly growing disquiet within the government about the path the Vote Leave maverick has put the Tories on.
However, Downing Street said this morning that Mr Johnson does still have confidence in Mr Cox while ‘nobody’ – minister or official – had offered to resign over the prorogation ruling.
‘The answer will be ”no” on all of those questions,’ the Prime Minister’s official spokeswoman said.
Earlier, Mr Gove was defiant as he made clear he did not agree with the judgement – although the government will abide by it.
‘I don’t think the government should apologise for having a strong domestic agenda,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘I don’t think we should apologise for trying to advance our exit from the EU.’
Remainers are plotting to create a new LAW to ensure a ‘catastrophic’ No Deal Brexit cannot happen on October 31 says Jo Swinson
Remainers will seek to create a new law to erect a legal wall across the path to a No Deal Brexit, possibly within days, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said today.
As MPs arrive back in the newly un-prorogued Commons she said that an emergency law passed weeks ago, forcing Boris Johnson to seek an extension to Article 50, needed strengthening.
In a hastily arranged press conference outside the doors of Parliament she said that the UK could not wait until October 19, when the Benn Act would come into effect, to ensure Mr Johnson complies with it.
There have been suggestions that he could ignore the law, which orders him to ask for a three-month Brexit delay at the European Council meeting on that day.
In a jibe at the Prime Minister following his Supreme Court defeat yesterday Ms Swinson said: ‘We simply cannot afford to wait until the 19th of October to see whether or not the Prime Minister will refuse to obey the law again.’
Ms Swinson ruled out agreeing to back a vote of no confidence until no-deal has been taken off the table.
‘Our country is in a moment of great peril and it is hugely important that we not risk accidentally crashing out of the European Union, and that is the risk of an early vote of no confidence,’ she said.
‘That is why we are saying we should explore all options to bring forward that guarantee that we can take No Deal off the table because then we can get rid of this Prime Minister who is unfit for office.
‘We saw in September the House of Commons take control of the order paper to pass a piece of legislation and that’s the type of way forward that may well enable us to take the threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table earlier than October 19.’
He added: ‘I think it’s important to stress that while the Supreme Court was clear, there is a respectable legal opinion that disagrees with that view.
‘It’s perfectly possible in a democracy to say you respect a judgment and will comply with the judgment, but you also note that there are a range of views about the appropriateness of a particular course of action.’
Speaking on the same programme later, Mr Corbyn denied that he was running scared of an election because of his dire popularity ratings – which are the lowest ever for an opposition leader at minus 60.
‘Until it is very clear that the application will be made, per the legislation, to the EU to extend our membership to at least January, then we will continue pushing for that and that is our priority,’ Mr Corbyn said.
He added: ‘When that has been achieved we will then be ready with a motion of no confidence…
‘Our priority is to prevent a No Deal exit from the EU on the 31st of October,’ he said. ‘I am very happy to have an election when we have taken No Deal off the table and the EU has agreed to an extension.’
The veteran left-winger said Mr Johnson had ‘abused the power he has in the royal prerogative and attempted to close down Parliament’.
‘I think he should apologise to (the Queen) for the advice he gave her but, more importantly, apologise to the British people for what he’s done in trying to shut down our democracy at a very crucial time when people are very, very worried about what will happen on October 31,’ he added.
In a vindictive step, Mr Corbyn confirmed Labour will not grant the Conservatives a Commons recess so the party can hold its conference – due to get under way in Manchester on Sunday.
‘I won’t support anything that shuts down parliament until it is absolutely clear that the government will abide by the law and apply for an extension,’ Mr Corbyn said.
A No10 source took a similarly hard line last night, suggesting the court had ‘made a serious mistake in extending its reach to these political matters’.
‘Further, the Supreme Court has made it clear that its reasons are connected to the parliamentary disputes over, and timetable for, leaving the European Union. We think this is a further serious mistake,’ they told the BBC.
Mr Johnson accused the court of siding with Remain campaigners to ‘frustrate Brexit’, although he was careful to say that he ‘respected’ the court’s judgment.
The PM’s plane touched down in the UK today after he cut short his trip to New York in the wake of the dramatic Supreme Court ruling
As the row raged, Brexit minister Michael Gove (pictured today) dismissed suggestions that the government needed to apologise
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured left leaving his London home today) made clear he will not let the PM go to the country for a new mandate until the Brexit deadline has been delayed. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox (right) faces an urgent question on his legal advice over prorogation
But Amber Rudd, who quit the Cabinet over Mr Johnson’s hardline approach to Brexit, said it was irresponsible for the Government to claim the ruling was ‘all about people trying to frustrate Brexit’ when the Government’s defence was that ‘prorogation had nothing to do with Brexit’.
Sir Nicholas Soames, a rebel Tory thrown out by Mr Johnson, said: ‘Boris has learned the hard way: be ye ever so high you are not above the law.’
The backlash led Justice Secretary Robert Buckland to issue a warning to the Cabinet against questioning the impartiality of the judiciary.
Parliament will now be recalled today, with Mr Johnson forced to cut short his visit to the UN general assembly in New York where he was holding talks with world leaders. Ministers were last night weighing up the possibility of using the recall to make another bid to force an election.
Mr Johnson said that, with Parliament gridlocked, an election was now ‘the obvious thing to do’. Ministers however fear they do not have the numbers to win a Commons vote on the issue.
Pro-Remain MPs last night indicated they would exploit the judgment by forcing a series of votes designed to embarrass the Government.
Lady Hale delivers the verdict of the Supreme Court yesterday as they ruled that Boris broke the law when he shut down Parliament. Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused judges of mounting a ‘constitutional coup’
Yesterday’s court ruling was the final blow to Mr Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks.
In a defiant response, the Prime Minister brushed aside opposition calls to resign and appeared to suggest the court had political motives.
Speaking in New York he said it was ‘perfectly normal’ for a government to prorogue Parliament in order to hold a Queen’s speech, which he had planned to stage on October 14.
He added: ‘Let’s be in no doubt, there are a lot of people who want to frustrate Brexit. There are a lot of people who want to stop this country coming out of the EU.’
The Prime Minister said that he had the ‘highest respect’ for the judiciary, but added: ‘I strongly disagree with this judgment.’
Supreme Court president Baroness Hale said that with the prorogation eating up five of the eight weeks of possible parliamentary time before Britain left the EU, ‘the effect on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme’.
She added: ‘No justification for taking action with such an extreme effect has been put before the court.’
Delivering the unanimous verdict of 11 of the UK’s most senior judges, she said: ‘The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions.’
What happens now the Supreme Court has ruled Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament was unlawful?
This is what may happen next in the coming days with anti-Brexit factions plotting how to derail the Prime Minister’s plan to leave the EU on October 31.
Will Boris Johnson resign?
The Supreme Court’s ruling is highly embarrassing for Mr Johnson and puts the PM in completely uncharted territory.
The fact that he was found to have acted unlawfully represents a hammer blow to his premiership and has unsurprisingly prompted calls for him to quit.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, pounced immediately after the ruling was read out as he said the PM must now ‘consider his position’.
Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scottish First Minister, said a premier with ‘any honour would tender his resignation’.
She said that if Mr Johnson will not do the ‘decent and honourable thing’ then MPs should try to force him out.
But Mr Johnson responded to the ruling by insisting he was right and the judges had got their decision wrong.
He had previously said that he had no intention of resigning if the court ruled against him and based on his hardline comments today that position has not changed.
Will the PM now face a vote of no confidence?
The possibility of an imminent confidence vote is receding.
The responsibility for seeking a vote rests with Mr Corbyn as the leader of the opposition, and he has said it will not happen until after the ‘threat of No Deal is taken off the table’.
Opposition leaders rejected Mr Johnson’s demands for an early election earlier this month because they did not want to go to the country before a No Deal Brexit has been ruled out.
But an anti-No Deal law is now on the statute book while rules relating to the holding of general elections dictate that there must be a 25 day campaign period.
That means any election caused by toppling Mr Johnson would not take place until after October 31 – and after the PM has been required by law to ask the EU for a Brexit delay should no agreement have been struck.
It is important to remember that the UK must always have a prime minister: Even if Mr Johnson lost a vote of no confidence and resigned he would be expected to stay in post until a replacement has been chosen or elected.
Could a vote of no confidence succeed?
Any vote would likely be tight. Mr Johnson would expect to count on the support of the overwhelming majority of Tory MPs although today’s Supreme Court ruling could make some think long and hard about backing the PM.
Mr Johnson would also likely be backed by a number of Labour Brexit-backing MPs and the DUP.
On the other side, if Mr Corbyn was to launch a push to get rid of Mr Johnson he would likely only do so if he believed all the other opposition parties were on board.
Lib Dem sources have suggested they could now back a vote of no confidence while the SNP would leap at any opportunity to boot out Mr Johnson.
The parliamentary arithmetic means that the result could ultimately come down to how a group of 21 Tory rebels who were stripped of the whip by the PM after backing the anti-No Deal law would vote.
If they decided to vote with the opposition Mr Johnson would be in big trouble.
What happens if Mr Johnson loses a vote of no confidence?
Convention dictates that he should resign as PM. But Downing Street has suggested before that even if he did lose a confidence vote he would not walk away and would instead try to dissolve Parliament and force an election.
That really would be uncharted territory. If he lost and the government falls as it is supposed to there would then be a 14 day period in which MPs could try to form another administration.
That could be the point at which the Remain alliance tries to put together a cross-party unity government with one task: To delay Brexit beyond October 31 in order to avoid a No Deal split.
What does the Supreme Court ruling mean for Brexit?
It does nothing to change the fact that the UK is still due to leave the EU on October 31.
But crucially it gets Remainer MPs back in the game. When Parliament was suspended MPs and peers were sidelined from the Brexit process.
With Parliament sitting again they will be able to challenge the government and, should they believe it is necessary, try to seize control of proceedings as they did when they passed anti-No Deal legislation.
Could Boris Johnson try to prorogue Parliament again?
Yes. The PM hinted that he could do so when he responded to the Supreme Court ruling.
When the PM first suspended Parliament he did so with the argument that he needed time to prepare a Queen’s Speech in which his new government would set out its domestic legislative plans.
That speech had been scheduled to take place on October 14 but today’s ruling puts that date in doubt.
Mr Johnson today said the government will likely try again to bring forward a Queen’s Speech but it was not immediately clear whether the PM will try to stick to the current October 14 date.
Mr Johnson said the Supreme Court ruling did not ‘exclude the possibility of having a Queen’s Speech’ in the near future.
Lady Hale had said during her ruling this morning that a ‘normal period necessary to prepare for the Queen’s Speech is four to six days’. That suggests Mr Johnson could try to prorogue Parliament in the first week of October in order to keep to his previous timetable.
Convention dictates that Parliament must be prorogued – and the parliamentary session formally brought to a close – before a Queen’s Speech can take place to kick off a new session.
What about the Conservative Party conference?
The Tories are due to meet in Manchester next week but Mr Bercow’s decision to resume Parliament throws a grenade into their plans.
The Conservatives have said they will go ahead as planned with the four day event from Sunday until Wednesday.
It is thought ministers will try to get Parliament’s approval tomorrow for a short conference recess to allow the get together to go ahead. But the chances of MPs voting to go back to recess immediately after Parliament’s doors have been reopened appear slim.
If the Commons rejects the proposed recess then the Tories will almost certainly have to amend their plans: The leader’s speech is due to take place on Wednesday at the same time as PMQs and Mr Johnson cannot be in two places at once.
What has the EU made of all of this?
The European Commission declined to comment today on what it described as the ‘internal constitutional matters’ of the UK.
But Brussels will be closely monitoring developments in London as Westminster tries to work out what happens next.
The last EU summit before Brexit is due to take place on October 17 and Brussels is still waiting for the UK to make a formal offer on how to break the current impasse. The bloc will be waiting to see whether today’s chaos focuses minds or if it leads to further meltdown.