The British supreme court ruled Tuesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson illegally suspended Parliament, dealing his government a hard setback and throwing the country into greater turmoil with little more than a month before Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union.
“The prime minister’s advice to Her Majesty [to suspend Parliament] was unlawful, void and of no effect,” said the president of the court Baroness Brenda Hale. Hale further specified that the suspension was unlawful “because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”
The 11-judge panel ruled unanimously to overturn Johnson’s suspension, upholding the verdict of the highest civil court in Scotland.
In the judgement of the Scottish court, to which the supreme court signaled its agreement, Johnson’s purpose in suspending Parliament was to curtail debate among lawmakers before the October 31 deadline to leave the E.U. Johnson has pledged to go through with the withdrawal from the E.U. with or without an agreement between London and Brussels regarding the terms of the separation.
Parliament has already legislated a request for an extension of the withdrawal deadline to January 31 if an agreement with the E.U. cannot be made by the end of October.
The intervention by the supreme court marked the latest setback for Johnson, who earlier this year tried to call early elections but did not garner the necessary two-thirds support of Parliament needed to approve the measure.
Johnson is scheduled to give a speech at the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. It wasn’t immediately clear if he would return to London earlier than expected.