09/24/2019 06:50 EDT | Updated 09/24/2019 10:45 EDT

U.K. Supreme Court Rules Suspension Of British Parliament Was Unlawful

Boris Johnson's decision came just weeks before the Brexit deadline.

LONDON — The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s controversial decision to suspend parliament was unlawful. 

The prime minister “prorogued” parliament for five weeks at the start of September, arguing the suspension would allow him to set out a new domestic agenda in a Queen’s speech.

But in announcing the verdict on Tuesday, the president of the U.K. Supreme Court, Lady Hale, said the prorogation was “void and of no effect,” adding: “Parliament has not been prorogued.”

“It is for parliament, and particularly the Speaker and the Lord Speaker, to decide what to do next,” she continued.

“Unless there is some parliamentary rule of which we are unaware, they can take immediate steps to enable each House to meet as soon as possible.”

Lady Hale announced that the court’s judgment was the unanimous judgment of all 11 justices, adding the case is a “one-off,” having come about “in circumstances which have never arisen before and are unlikely to ever arise again.

She told the court that “a decision to prorogue, or advise the monarch to prorogue, will be unlawful if the prorogation has the effect of frustrating or preventing without reasonable justification the ability of parliament to carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive.”

Lucas Jackson/Reuters
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks at UN headquarters in New York City on Monday. 

Reacting to the verdict, U.K. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said the house must “convene without delay” and that he would be consulting party leaders “as a matter of urgency.”

Opposition parties began calling for Johnson’s resignation. Liberal Democrat Leader Jo Swinson said the decision by the U.K. Supreme Court confirms that Johnson “isn’t fit to be Prime Minister.”

“He’s misled Queen and country, and unlawfully silenced the people’s representatives,” she tweeted.

Deputy Labour Leader Tom Watson called for Johnson to resign, a sentiment also expressed by Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.

Protesters outside the Supreme Court erupted into cheers following the ruling.

Chants of “reopen parliament” and “Johnson out” quickly began as the news spread through crowds, who were watching livestreams on cellphones outside.

Susan Rogers, 70, told PA: “I am really pleased, I assumed that they would come to this verdict.

“It really shocked me the liberties that were taken, with the lies and with the prorogation of parliament.

“I think parliament should reopen and start dealing with the problems in the country. Look at the homeless, look at the NHS.”

Matt Dunham/The Associated Press via CP
Anti-Brexit campaigners celebrate the U.K. Supreme Court's decision on the legality of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's five-week suspension of British parliament.

Critics had accused Johnson of trying to escape scrutiny in the run-up to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline, with MPs not due to return to Westminster until Oct. 14.

The Supreme Court judgment comes after challenges to the British prime minister’s decision resulted in different rulings at courts in England and Scotland.

The Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled that Johnson’s suspension of parliament was “unlawful” following a case brought by a group of around 75 MPs and peers.

However, a challenge by businesswoman Gina Miller in the High Court in London was unsuccessful.

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