A Scottish court on Friday rejected a request to counter the suspension of the British Parliament, the first victory for the government in the legal battle launched by opponents of a hard Brexit denouncing a "coup d'etat".
This rejection must, however, still be confirmed at a hearing on the merits on 6 September. The highest civilian court in Scotland was seized as a matter of urgency by a group of 75 pro-European parliamentarians seeking to declare the suspension of Parliament illegal, making it virtually impossible for them to block an exit from the European Union without an agreement, as envisaged by Boris Johnson.
It also provoked fury outside Parliament. A petition collected about 1.6 million signatures on Friday while demonstrations are planned in several cities this weekend and Tuesday.
– "Absurd" –
However, the Prime Minister has the right to suspend Parliament, after having been authorized by Queen Elizabeth II.
Before the verdict, Foreign Minister Dominic Raab ruled the complaint "absurd" on the sidelines of a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Helsinki.
But this is the time to do it, in the final stretch before the fateful date of Brexit on October 31, and the length of the suspension (five weeks) that are disputed.
Boris Johnson is suspected of wanting to prevent MPs from blocking a Brexit without an agreement, which the government wants to implement if he does not find a compromise with the EU on the terms of the British exit on 31 October.
The Prime Minister was careful not to link Brexit to his decision to suspend Parliament. He said he wanted to take advantage of this time to develop and present his national policy agenda as the new head of government – he succeeded Theresa May on July 24.
Stefan Theil, a researcher at the Oxford University School of Law, told Bloomberg that even though the court ultimately declared Boris Johnson's decision illegal, it will not necessarily force him to reconsider the suspension. .
The plaintiffs' lawyer, Aidan O'Neill, said on Thursday that the suspension was "unprecedented". "The government, based on a parliamentary majority, seeks to impose its power by suspending Parliament," he argued. "It's unconstitutional and this court must stop it."
Roddy Dunlop, the Government representative, had asked the Court to reject the application, in particular because of the Queen's consent.
– "Nothing credible" –
Another appeal filed on behalf of Northern Irish human rights activist Raymond McCord is also due to be heard Friday morning by the Northern Ireland High Court.
"Of course, Boris Johnson has the power to advise the Queen to suspend Parliament, but what we are saying is that his motivation to do so is illegal because he is clearly trying to bypass Parliament," he said. AFP Ciaran O'Hare, representing Raymond McCord.
Former Conservative Prime Minister John Major, Brexit's opponent, also announced Friday that he will join a third lawsuit against the suspension of Parliament by anti-Brexit activist Gina Miller. The hearing will take place on 5 September in London.
Miller had already won a legal battle in 2017 to force the government, then led by Theresa May, to consult Parliament on the withdrawal process.
In parallel with these great maneuvers, Boris Johnson announced Thursday an acceleration of meetings between British and European negotiators who will meet twice a week in Brussels in September.
The aim is mainly to find a solution for the provision of the Irish safety net, intended to avoid a return of the physical border between the two Ireland but rejected by the United Kingdom. This safety net, or "backstop", provides that for lack of a better solution after a transitional period, the whole United Kingdom remains in a "single customs territory" with the EU.
"For the moment," London has proposed "nothing credible," said Friday the head of Irish diplomacy, Simon Coveney.
LNT with Afp