The Government has said it intends to appeal to the Supreme Court after three Court of Session judges in Scotland ruled Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue Parliament early is unlawful.
A group of MPs, angry with the decision to suspend Parliament, took the matter to the courts last month, but were initially dismissed by a judge who last week said the dispute was a matter for the Commons and not the judiciary.
But following an appeal, judges on Wednesday ruled that ministers had shut down the Commons for the “improper purpose of stymying Parliament”.
The three judges went as far as to say the advice given to the Queen, which led to the prorogation, was misleading and unlawful “and is thus null and of no effect”.
Downing Street has maintained its argument that the five-week prorogation has been undertaken to allow the new Government to set out its legislative programme in a Queen’s Speech, and said it will appeal the judgement.
But the fact that this highly political issue has seeped into the courts is a significant moment for the Government and, possibly, the constitution.
Has Parliament been recalled?
The Prime Minister has faced demands from angry opposition MPs for Parliament to immediately be recalled in light of the ruling.
They argued that prorogation should be set aside without delay to allow for the Commons to continue holding the Government to account over its Brexit plans.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: “What Boris Johnson should do is to urgently recall Parliament. We should be back there this afternoon, or tomorrow, so we can debate this judgment, and we can decide what to do next.”
But the Government immediately lodged an appeal against the ruling and officials said that, until the case is concluded, Parliament will remain prorogued.
What happens next?
The case has now been referred to the UK Supreme Court, which is expected to hear the arguments on Tuesday and announce a ruling later in the week.
If the Supreme Court judges disagree with Wednesday’s ruling then the Prime Minister will be free to continue with his suspension of Parliament until 14 October.
But if the court rules that prorogation is unlawful it could strike a huge blow to Mr Johnson’s strategy, as he will be expected to abide by the judges’ decision.
This situation could see the Prime Minister forced to go back to the Queen and advise her to recall Parliament immediately, causing MPs to return to sit in the Commons.
Or, the Supreme Court judges could rule the unlawful nature of the prorogation actually means Parliament was never suspended in the eyes of the law and is still technically in session.
Either way, the prediction is that MPs will have to be called back to Parliament as soon as possible if the Government loses the appeal.
Raphael Hogarth, an associate at the Institute for Government, said: “If the Supreme Court rules next week that the prorogation was unlawful, then I’d expect Parliament to be sitting again in very short order.
“The mechanics of that depend on what the court says. The court might say that Parliament was never prorogued at all in the eyes of the law and so is actually still sitting after all. Or, the Government might need to recall Parliament immediately.”
Could Mr Johnson refuse?
Although the Queen is the one with the power to recall or prorogue Parliament, she can only do so on the advice of her Prime Minister.
If Mr Johnson refuses to do this, it could leave the Queen in a very difficult position, threatening to politicise her role as monarch.
It would also likely spark anger among MPs who are already furious at the prorogation.
It is hard to see a way that Mr Johnson could ignore such a significant court ruling, as doing so would plunge the country into a constitutional crisis involving the Government, the Queen and the judiciary.
Former attorney general Dominic Grieve, who has been a critic of Mr Johnson’s strategy, said that if the Supreme Court does rule that ministers have misled the Queen then the Prime Minister should resign.
“It is absolutely central to our constitution that the relationship between the Prime Minister and the Queen is one of the utmost confidentiality and the utmost good faith. Central,” he told the BBC.
“So, if it were to be the case that the Government had misled the Queen about the reasons for suspending Parliament and the motives for it, that would be a very serious matter indeed.
“Indeed in my view, it would then be the moment for Mr Johnson to resign and very swiftly.”
What does this all mean for Brexit?
Regardless of whether Parliament is recalled or not, the legislation MPs put forward designed to prevent a no deal has already received Royal Assent and is now part of UK law.
But MPs are angry that prorogation has reduced the opportunities for MPs to scrutinise the Government over its Brexit strategy.
It means there is less time for the Commons to debate Brexit before 31 October and also means the Prime Minister can avoid a certain amount of scrutiny – as he did on Wednesday by not attending a Commons committee meeting which was due to question him on Brexit for three hours.Read More