The Supreme Court will today rule on whether Boris Johnson lied to the Queen and illegally prorogued Parliament – but the Prime Minister has insisted he won’t resign.
Mr Johnson will be 3,500 miles away from London in New York as the top 11 judges in Britain make the historic decision at Britain’s highest court at 10.30am.
Downing Street is braced for a potentially seismic ruling this morning when the UK’s top court delivers its judgment on whether Mr Johnson broke the law in suspending Parliament for five weeks.
There are four possible outcomes for the PM with the best case scenario for the PM is that he wins and the Commons remains shut until October 14.
The worst case scenario is that judges find he lied to Her Majesty, broke the law and MPs return to Parliament this week because his prorogation is void.
After addressing the United Nations Climate Action Summit last night, Mr Johnson denied he had shut Parliament to stymie MPs wanting to discuss Brexit.
Breaking into cod-French he said: ‘Donnez-moi un break is my message to those who say there will be no parliamentary scrutiny. It is absolute nonsense.’
Mr Johnson is currently in New York (pictured) where he is to meet US President Donald Trump on Tuesday for talks at the United Nations General Assembly
Remain campaigner Gina Miller, who brought one of the cases against the Government, arriving at the Supreme Court in London last Friday
Boris Johnson has been accused of misleading the Queen by asking her to shut down Parliament
A defeat could mean he is forced to recall MPs immediately and campaigners, including the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, have said the PM is duty bound to resign if the court finds against him.
Could Parliament remain suspended even if Boris Johnson loses the landmark Supreme Court case?
What is the court deciding?
The 11 justices at the Supreme Court in London will rule on appeals from two separate challenges brought in England and Scotland over the suspension – formally known as prorogation – of Parliament.
The High Court in London dismissed a case brought by businesswoman and campaigner Gina Miller. But the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that Mr Johnson’s decision was unlawful. The Supreme Court’s ruling will trump them both.
What if Boris wins?
The five-week suspension of Parliament – that started ten days ago – will continue until October 14 – the eve of the crunch EU summit where Boris says he will try to get a deal.
What if Boris loses?
Because the situation would be unprecedented for a sitting Prime Minister, it is still unclear exactly what would happen next.
A Government legal paper released today says No 10 believes there are three options.
1.) Boris could prorogue Parliament again
The Prime Minister could go to see the Queen to ask her to prorogue Parliament again, this time within the law.
2.) Boris is forced to summon the Queen to Parliament – but MPs would have to wait
The Government could be forced to bring forward their Queen’s Speech – meaning MPs would not return straight away.
Mr Johnson’s lawyers says consider the ‘very serious practical consequences’ as the recall of Parliament would require a meeting of the Privy Council and a new Queen’s Speech.
This could take at least a fortnight.
A court document says: ‘As the court will be well aware, the proper preparations for a Queen’s Speech are a matter of thoroughgoing importance, including in relation to the content of that Speech.
‘Extensive arrangements would have to be made, including as to security, to enable this to occur.
‘These considerations lead to the need for any order that the court makes, if necessary, to allow for these steps relating to the earlier meeting of Parliament to occur in an orderly fashion.’
3.) MPs could return straight away
The Supreme Court could rule because Boris Johnson’s decision was illegal, Parliament was never properly prorogued and is still in session.
Gina Miller’s QC Lord Pannick said that the proper course for the court ‘in these unusual and difficult circumstances (is) to let Parliament sort out the problem’.
He suggested the court should encourage ‘the Prime Minister to ensure that Parliament meets as soon as possible’ – which would be this week.
Speaking on the way to the UN General Assembly in New York, Mr Johnson said the suspension was ordered to allow for a Queen’s Speech on October 14 when he will unveil a new legislative agenda.
Asked if his position would be untenable if the court rules against him, he said: ‘No, I think the reasons for wanting a Queen’s Speech are extremely good.’
He went on: ‘When it comes to parliamentary scrutiny, what are we losing? Four or five days of parliamentary scrutiny when they’ve had three years to discuss these issues.’
Eleven justices have been asked to determine whether his advice to the Queen to prorogue Parliament, for what opponents describe as an ‘exceptionally long’ period, was unlawful.
Mr Johnson was asked whether he was nervous about the Supreme Court judgment in an interview in New York, and replied: ‘It takes a lot to make me nervous these days.
‘All I can tell you is that I have the highest regard for the judiciary in this country, I will look at the ruling with care.’
He was questioned by reporters on the flight to New York over whether he would resign if the Government lost.
‘I will wait and see what the justices decide, the Supreme Court decides, because as I’ve said before I believe that the reasons for … wanting a Queen’s speech were very good indeed,’ he said.
Asked whether he would rule out proroguing Parliament again before the current October 31 Brexit deadline, the PM replied: ‘I’m saying that Parliament will have bags of time to scrutinise the deal that I hope we will be able to do.’
The Prime Minister advised the Queen on August 28 to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, and it was suspended on September 9 until October 14.
Mr Johnson says the five-week suspension is to allow the Government to set out a new legislative agenda in a Queen’s Speech when MPs return to Parliament.
But those who brought legal challenges argue the prorogation is designed to prevent parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s impending exit from the EU on October 31.
The Supreme Court heard appeals over three days arising out of separate legal challenges in England and Scotland, in which leading judges reached different conclusions.
At the High Court in London, Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett and two other judges rejected campaigner and businesswoman Gina Miller’s challenge, finding that the prorogation was ‘purely political’ and not a matter for the courts.
But in Scotland, a cross-party group of MPs and peers led by SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC won a ruling from the Inner House of the Court of Session that Mr Johnson’s prorogation decision was unlawful because it was ‘motivated by the improper purpose of stymieing Parliament’.
Mrs Miller has appealed against the decision of the High Court, asking the Supreme Court to find that the judges who heard her judicial review action ‘erred in law’ in the findings they reached.
The justices have been asked to determine whether Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen was ‘justiciable’ – capable of challenge in the courts – and, if so, whether it was lawful.
During last week’s hearing, Lord Pannick QC, for Mrs Miller, told the packed court that Mr Johnson’s motive for a five-week suspension was to ‘silence’ Parliament, and that his decision was an ‘unlawful abuse of power’.
Boris Johnson’s QC Sir James Eadie told the court last week that the PM’s decision to prorogue Parliament was his political right
He argued that Mr Johnson’s reasons for advising on a suspension of that length ‘were improper in that they were infected with factors inconsistent with the concept of Parliamentary sovereignty’.
But Sir James Eadie QC argued on the Prime Minister’s behalf that the suggestion the prorogation was intended to ‘stymie’ Parliament ahead of Brexit was ‘untenable’.
Mrs Miller’s case is supported by former prime minister Sir John Major, shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti, the Scottish and Welsh governments, and Northern Irish victims’ campaigner Raymond McCord.
The justices have also been asked by the Westminster Government to allow an appeal against the decision in Scotland.
Depending on the legal basis upon which the judges reach their conclusions, Parliament may have to reconvene if Mr Johnson, who has refused to rule out a second suspension, loses the case.
Documents submitted to the court revealed three possible scenarios in the event the court rules the suspension was unlawful, two of which could see the Prime Minister make a fresh decision to prorogue Parliament.
The other outcome could see the court order Parliament to be recalled.
But Mr Johnson’s lawyers urged the judges to consider the ‘very serious practical consequences’ involved in this option, as it would require a new Queen’s Speech and State Opening of Parliament.
Lawyers for Mr Johnson’s opponents said Parliament should meet ‘urgently’ after the ruling, to decide what to do in the event the prorogation is declared ‘null’ by the court.
Asked shortly after the hearing ended last week to rule out proroguing Parliament for a second time, Mr Johnson said: ‘I have the greatest respect for the judiciary in this country.
‘The best thing I can say at the moment whilst their deliberations arecontinuing is that obviously I agree very much with the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice and others who found in our favour the other day.’
He added: ‘I will wait to see what transpires.’
At the close of the hearing on Thursday, the court’s president Lady Hale said: ‘I must repeat that this case is not about when and on what terms the United Kingdom leaves the European Union.
‘The result of this case will not determine that.
‘We are solely concerned with the lawfulness of the Prime Minister’s decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament on the dates in question.’
The 11 Supreme Court judges set to rule on the key Brexit case
Lady Hale, Lord Reed, Lord Carnwath, Lord Lloyd-Jones, Lord Hodge, Lord Wilson, Lady Arden, Lady Black, Lord Sales, Lord Kerr and Lord Kitchin will make the final ruling in the Supreme Court (pictured top left to bottom right)
These are the 11 Supreme Court judges who will consider legal challenges to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament:
– Lady Hale, 74, was appointed the first female president of the Supreme Court in 2017 after a varied career as an academic lawyer, law reformer and judge.
A long-standing champion of diversity in the judiciary, she became the first female justice of the court in October 2009, and was appointed deputy president in June 2013.
During her time as deputy president, Yorkshire-born Lady Hale ruled on numerous high-profile cases, including the Brexit appeal.
– Lord Reed, 63, was appointed deputy president of the Supreme Court in June last year and will replace Lady Hale when she retires in January.
One of the court’s two Scottish justices, he previously served as a judge in Scotland and sometimes sits as a judge at the European Court of Human Rights and the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
He was educated at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford before qualifying as an advocate in Scotland and a barrister in England and Wales.
– Lord Kerr, 71, is the first justice of the court to come from Northern Ireland, where he served as Lord Chief Justice from 2004 to 2009.
Educated at St Colman’s College, Newry, and Queen’s University, Belfast, he was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1970, and to the Bar of England and Wales in 1974.
– Lord Wilson, 74, was appointed in 2009, having previously been a judge in the High Court’s family division and the Court of Appeal.
– Lord Carnwath, 74, studied at Cambridge and was called to the Bar in 1968. He served as Attorney General to the Prince of Wales from 1988 to 1994.
While a judge of the Chancery Division, he was also chairman of the Law Commission and, between 2007 and 2012, was Senior President of Tribunals.
– Lord Hodge, 66, the court’s other Scottish justice, was previously the Scottish judge in Exchequer Causes, one of the Scottish intellectual property judges, a judge in the Lands Valuation Appeal Court and a commercial judge.
– Lady Black, 65, a justice since 2017, carried out a broad range of civil and criminal work during her early career as a barrister before specialising in family law.
She has served as a High Court judge and Lady Justice of Appeal.
Lady Black taught law at Leeds Polytechnic in the 1980s, was a founding author of the definitive guide to family law practice in England and Wales, and continues to serve as a consulting editor.
– Lord Lloyd-Jones, 67, was born and brought up in Pontypridd, South Wales, where his father was a school teacher, and is the court’s first justice to come from Wales.
A Welsh speaker, he was appointed to the High Court in 2005, and acted as adviser to the court in the Pinochet litigation before the House of Lords.
– Lady Arden, 72, who grew up in Liverpool, began her judicial career in 1993 after working as a barrister, QC, and Attorney General of the Duchy of Lancaster.
She became a member of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague in 2011, and sits as a judge of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
– Lord Kitchin, 64, was called to the Bar in 1977 and his practice covered intellectual property, including patents, trademarks, copyright, designs and trade secrets.
He has also served as a High Court judge and as a Lord Justice of Appeal.
– Lord Sales, 57, is the youngest of the court’s justices and was appointed in January, having worked as a barrister and QC before his appointment to the High Court in 2008.
He was vice-president of the Investigatory Powers Tribunal, served as deputy chairman of the Boundary Commission for England and was appointed as a Lord Justice of Appeal.