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Tue 20 August 2019
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A cross-party group of 75 MPs argued that proroguing Parliament would be a breach of the British constitution.


A legal action that could stop Prime Minister Boris Johnson shutting down Parliament to ensure a ‘no deal’ Brexit has been given the go ahead by a Scottish judge.

The case, brought by a cross-party group of 75 MPs and crowdfunded through the Good Law project, is to proceed in September, Lord Doherty ruled today.

If successful in the Outer House of the Court of Session, Scotland’s highest court, it would then proceed to the Appeal Court and finally the UK’s Supreme Court in London which would make the final decision. 

The petitioners argue that proroguing – or suspending – Parliament to stop MPs voting against a ‘no deal’ Brexit, a move which has been openly discussed by Johnson’s advisors, would be a breach of the constitution. 

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Jolyon Maugham QC, director of the Good Law Project, said: “A man with no mandate seeks to cancel Parliament for fear it will stop him inflicting on an unwilling public an outcome they did not vote for and do not want. That’s certainly not democracy and I expect our courts to say it’s not the law.” 

At the hearing today in Edinburgh, counsel for the petitioners, David Welsh, argued that the case should be immediately sent to the next level, the Inner House of the Court of Session, as “if this goes past October 31 [it] will be rendered pointless and academic”, noting that only 11 weeks remain to stop Britain crashing out of European Union. 

However, the head of the UK Government’s legal team, Andrew Webster QC, responded that “there are only 11 weeks to settle this case, but “you can squeeze a lot into 11 weeks”. He proposed a timetable of three weeks for this court to hear the case, three weeks for the Inner House and three weeks for the Supreme Court.

Lord Doherty agreed, saying that “urgent cases have been settled quicker than that”. 

The group of MPs also asked for a cap on legal costs to be put in place, arguing that they were acting as representatives of their constituents and should not have to put their personal assets at risk to perform their public duty.

Webster objected to this, noting that the group of 75 MPs had a combined income of £5.5 million from their salaries alone, as well as access to £100,000 raised via crowdfunding.

The judge ruled that any legal liability for the MPs is to be limited to a maximum of £30,000 and set a date of Friday 6 September for proceedings to formally begin.

The case continues. 

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