Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament is unlawful, Supreme Court rules

By Rob Picheta and Ivana Kottasová, CNN

Updated 4:53 p.m. ET, September 24, 2019
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9:54 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

Boris Johnson to fly back to Britain overnight

From CNN's Luke McGee in London

Boris Johnson will fly back to the UK Tuesday night after his speech at the United Nations General Assembly, a government source tells CNN.

There is no information yet if and when he may speak in the House of Commons Wednesday.

9:44 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

Westminster reacts to stunning court ruling


It is difficult to articulate how unprecedented the UK's Supreme Court's ruling is.

Britain's highest court was established a decade ago next week. Its has been dragged into the gravitational pull of the Brexit saga before -- notably when it decided Parliament must get a vote on a Brexit deal, a decision that ultimately doomed Theresa May's attempts to leave the European Union and finally sunk her premiership.

But it has never faced a case of this magnitude, nor one which drew so much attention.

And its newest judgement could spell more immediate doom for May's successor, given that it explicitly found that his own actions were unlawful.

That's the view emanating from Parliament's opposition parties, who reacted with a tsunami of attacks on Johnson.

"The Prime Minister must resign to make way for an emergency Government that can stop a No Deal Brexit," Jo Swinson, the leader of the surging anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, said after the judgement.

"Boris Johnson has no regard for the law ... yet again he has been found out," Labour's shadow Brexit secretary added on Twitter. "The sooner we resume our work challenging and defeating him the better."

And Amber Rudd, who quit Johnson's cabinet earlier this month in protest at his Brexit strategy, said that "despite personal assurances from the PM, the Cabinet was not shown the legal advice around this prorogation."

"This is an astonishing moment and I regret that the PM, who entered office with such goodwill, went down this route," she added.

The Prime Minister has predictably ignored those calls for his resignation. But now that the furious lawmakers are returning to work, they could be plotting to join forces for a vote of no confidence that could force an election would give Johnson the ignominy of becoming the UK's shortest-serving prime minister.

9:03 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

We will need a Queen's Speech, Johnson says

Boris Johnson has just given a short speech to business leaders in New York, but he addressed the damning Supreme Court ruling at the beginning.

“There’s been a court case in our country this morning which I think one or two of you may have picked up," he joked.

“I just want to say to everyone watching back home that for the avoidance of doubt, I have the highest regard for our judiciary," he went on. “But I must say I strongly disagree with this judgement”

He added that his government will not be deterred from delivering on the “will of the people” and securing Brexit.

And he said “we will need a Queen's Speech to set out what we are going to do, and I think frankly that is what the people ... want to see.”

“My heart lifts when I come to New York," he added, "court judgements or otherwise," before beginning his prepared remarks on business.

8:51 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

Former PM calls on Johnson to apologize

John Major
John Major  Leon Neal/Getty Images

John Major, the former Conservative Prime Minister who joined the legal action against the incumbent Boris Johnson, has hailed the Supreme Court's ruling and lambasted Johnson for his behavior.

"No Prime Minister must ever treat the monarch or Parliament in this way again," Major said in a scathing statement.

"This was a case that should never have had to be considered, and it gave me no pleasure to be pitted against a Government and Prime Minister of my own Party," he added.

"Parliament must now be recalled immediately to recommence its work, and to receive the Prime Minister's unreserved apology."

"I hope this ruling from the Supreme Court will deter any future Prime Minister from attempting to shut down Parliament, with the effect of stifling proper scrutiny and debate, when its sitting is so plainly in the national interest," he added.

8:24 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

Boris Johnson says he "strongly disagrees" with the Supreme Court ruling

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given his first reaction to the the Supreme Court's ruling that his decision to suspend Parliament was unlawful.

“I strongly disagree with this decision of the Supreme Court," he told reporters in New York. "I have the utmost respect for our judiciary, I don't think this was the right decision."

Johnson attempted to deflect the political implications of the ruling: “The main thing is we’re going to get on and deliver Brexit on October 31," he added. "The claimants in this case are determined to frustrate (Brexit) and to stop that."

“It’s an unusual judgement to come to in my view ... the prerogative of prorogation is an old one," Johnson went on. He also said he was "not certain that the justices did say" that prorogation was unlawful and undemocratic. (They did, at least on the first part: the judges concluded the prorogation was "unlawful, void and of no effect.")

He continued to insist Britain would leave the EU next month. “As the law currently stands, the UK leaves the EU on October 31, come what may," Johnson said. In fact, the law also says that Johnson must ask for an extension if he cannot reach a deal.

8:09 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

Brexit Party says Boris Johnson has failed

The battle lines are being drawn for the next -- and presumably rather imminent -- British general election.

Boris Johnson has been desperate to avoid having to extend Brexit, knowing that would severely damage his chances of holding off Nigel Farage's Brexit Party at the ballot box.

But his strategy has been defeated at every possible turn, and this morning's Supreme Court ruling has handed him a humiliating favor of historic proportions.

The Brexit Party has responded in turn, slamming Johnson for a failure to deliver Brexit on October 31 and predicting he will have to resign this week.

"As soon as Parliament is recalled, Boris Johnson is probably going to have to offer his resignation or there may well be a vote of no confidence," its chairman and MEP Richard Tice told the BBC.

"Then there is the question of a general election, and really and truly that should be as soon as possible, probably meaning the first half of November.

"And goodness me, what does it say about the so-called master strategist, Dominic Cummings? I trust he'll be offering his resignation today," Tice added.

7:57 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

Johnson should get back to London and explain himself, says Cherry

Boris Johnson should cancel his plans in New York and return to London to face lawmakers, the MP and lawyer who brought the successful legal challenge has told CNN.

"There’s a constitutional crisis in the UK at the moment were heading towards Brexit without a plan," Joanna Cherry told Hala Gorani. "So Boris Johnson needs to get back here and answer to the British Parliament for what he has been up to."

Cherry also called on Johnson to step down.

"I do believe that he should resign immediately. I don’t think he will because he doesn’t operate to the same rules as other people. But he has been found by the highest court in the UK to have acted unlawfully -- this is just simply unprecedented," she said.

"Once parliament is sitting again members of parliament such as myself can ask the speaker to grant urgent questions which force members of the government to come to the dispatch box and answer those questions," she added.

As for the path forward, Cherry said "there are two options."

"There could be a general election but the clock is ticking down to the 31st of October," she said. "What we might need to do is, first of all, form some temporary government in order to seek an extension from the European Union, to hold a general election, or indeed hold a second referendum on the question whether or not the UK should be leaving the EU at all."

7:50 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

A new low for Boris Johnson

Analysis from CNN's Luke McGee in London

Christopher Furlong - WPA Pool /Getty Images
Christopher Furlong - WPA Pool /Getty Images

Boris Johnson has had some awful days since becoming Prime Minister. But Tuesday’s ruling that his decision to suspend – or prorogue – the legislative branch of his own government was unlawful really sets a new low.

Those who opposed Johnson’s suspension, from opposition leaders to several of his own Conservative lawmakers, have already made clear their intention to get Parliament back on its feet and holding Johnson to account ASAP.

John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons, has been out the blocks early, saying that “the prorogation was unlawful and is void” and therefore “the resumption of the business of the House of Commons” will take place Wednesday morning.

Untangling the parliamentary jargon, this means that Parliament never stopped sitting, meaning that there is no need for Johnson to lay out a legislative agenda nor to have a formal re-opening of Parliament in order to do so (his given reason for choosing to suspend in the first place).

On paper, this is all very embarrassing and damaging for a leader. But politics works in funny ways. Whenever Parliament comes back, the politics of the situation remain as deadlocked as ever and the October 31 Brexit deadline is still happening.

This leaves Johnson with two options: try to find a compromise in Parliament to get a deal through before October 31, or lean even harder into being Mr. Brexit.

As things stand, Johnson is perfectly placed to say that everyone is against him: the opposition parties, Parliament, the Speaker, and now even the courts. If he is forced to extend Brexit and hold an election, he can point his finger at his opponents and repeatedly say that the establishment stole Brexit from the people.

If he instead goes the compromise route, then he might get a deal through Parliament. However, if he does this, he leaves a space for someone else to scream Brexit betrayal.

Both options are risky, but that’s where Brexit has left British politics. And if Johnson wants a way out of this other than being the shortest-serving leader in history, then, at some point, there has to be a risk he is willing to take.

7:36 a.m. ET, September 24, 2019

Here's what you need to know

John Bercow speaks to reporters outside Parliament on Tuesday.
John Bercow speaks to reporters outside Parliament on Tuesday. TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images

It's been a momentous morning in London, and Boris Johnson is starting his day in New York under immense pressure.

Here's a recap of where we stand just after 7 a.m. ET (noon local time).

  • The Supreme Court ruled that Boris Johnson broke the law: The country's highest court announced its staggering verdict on Tuesday morning, ruling that the Prime Minister unlawfully suspended Parliament and that, as a result, that suspension was null and void.
  • Parliament is set to resume on Wednesday: Lawmakers will return to the House of Commons at 6:30 a.m. (11:30 a.m. local time) tomorrow, the Speaker John Bercow announced after the decision. Since the prorogation is void, they essentially just need to get on the train to London and get back to work.
  • Lawmakers are calling for Johnson to resign: Johnson was met with a flurry to calls to stand aside in the immediate aftermath of the judgement, with opposition leaders saying his position is untenable.
  • We're still waiting for his response: The Prime Minister was set to meet with world leaders and speak at the United Nations General Assembly later on Tuesday. He may change his plans and return to London early -- and as of yesterday, he hadn't ruled out trying to suspend Parliament again.