Bitcoin has fallen slightly today by about -2%, while pound is up against the euro by about 0.36%.
That’s while the legal world woke up to a metaphorical earthquake as the most senior judges of the land unanimously ruled the British Prime Minister misled Queen Elizabeth the Second in advising her to suspend parliament.
Reading out the unanimous judgement, the President of the Supreme Court Lady Hale stated:
“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. In judging any justification which might be put forward, the court must of course be sensitive to the responsibilities and experience of the Prime Minister and proceed with appropriate caution.
If the prorogation does have that effect, without reasonable justification, there is no need for the court to consider whether the Prime Minister’s motive or purpose was unlawful…
No justification for taking action with such an extreme effect has been put before the court. The only evidence of why it was taken is the memorandum from Nikki da Costa of 15th August. This explains why holding the Queen’s Speech to open a new session of Parliament on 14th October would be desirable. It does not explain why it was necessary to bring Parliamentary business to a halt for five weeks before that, when the normal period necessary to prepare for the Queen’s Speech is four to six days. It does not discuss the difference between prorogation and recess. It does not discuss the impact of prorogation on the special procedures for scrutinising the delegated legislation necessary to achieve an orderly withdrawal from the European Union, with or without a withdrawal agreement, on 31st October. It does not discuss what Parliamentary time would be needed to secure Parliamentary approval for any new withdrawal agreement, as required by section 13 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018.
The Court is bound to conclude, therefore, that the decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.”
This is the first time a British court has decided a decision by a sitting prime minister is unlawful, null and void.
Meaning parliament has actually not been suspended, with the speaker (pictured above) engaging in talks with party leaders. There are suggestions MPs may return tomorrow.
The Case of the Century
To the laity, this decision by the supreme court might seem like any other, but it has profound constitutional implications and the judges probably had no choice but to decide what they did decide.
That’s because at the foundation of British democracy is the separation of powers between the judiciary, the executive (gov), and parliament.
Parliament makes the law, the government enforces it, the judiciary interprets it. In this case they are interpreting not so much the law, but the unwritten constitution. Specifically what power the prime minister has and how such power is shared with parliament.
The judges cite the supremacy of parliament and its duty to hold the government to account which in this case was frustrated by the suspension.
The third branch therefore was deciding the power balance between the other two and in the process it arguably gave itself more power because they are exercising jurisdiction over a sitting prime minister.
In legal theory this gets complex because the judiciary derives its powers from the queen. The case is called R[egina] (on the application of Miller) (Appellant) v The Prime Minister. In other words, the queen is suing the prime minister.
Technically it is the queen that suspended parliament, but she obviously can’t sue herself, so she is suing her advisor – or more correctly Gina Miller, a business woman, is doing so on the behalf of the queen.
This arguably implicates the privy council as well and especially Jacob Rees-Mogg, Lord President of the Privy Council, who actually gave the advice under the orders of Boris Johnson, the unelected sitting prime minister.
Constitutionally this has implications because the police is under the orders of Boris Johnson. The courts do not have their own enforcement mechanism, so if the Prime Minister does break the law, then another institution (the police) would descend into a political crisis.
This is relevant not in regards to the suspension because it isn’t actually quite clear what crime would apply to the abuse of power, which is effectively what the court has found here.
But this can be relevant in regards to breaching the law of parliament if the prime minister does not secure an extension prior to the 31st of October which would have him in contempt of parliament, a criminal offence.
Yet who would enforce it? The answer to that would ultimately be the army, which swears allegiances to the queen. Yet as matters stand things are no where near that level. The Prime Minister will comply as otherwise he pretty much loses all authority.
In regards to the prorogation, if he resists then Black Rod, under the direction of the Queen, can just open parliament without anyone caring about his resistance. In regards to the extension, EU has stated they will consider the act of parliament itself as a request for an extension, so whether the PM asks or not can again technically and legally be irrelevant.
Politically however what he does is very relevant as to any independent observer, the actions of Boris Johnson so far are actually of serious concern as he has abused his power according to a plain reading of the judgment.
That can have considerable implications for an election as voters will have to think very hard on whether they wish to risk having a prime minister who acts in such a manner that he has to be constrained by the courts.
The conservative party is now in crisis. After asking the country a geopolitical question without clearly laying out the ramifications which can include war and peace itself, they have failed time and again to reach any agreeable understanding with the European Union.
That’s because it is perhaps impossible to reach such agreement in a way that ensures there is no Irish border while also ensuring that the people of Northern Ireland maintain their right to decide in a referendum whether they wish to be part of the United Kingdom or otherwise.
This became somewhat obvious after three years of negotiation led to the choice of either pretty much giving Northern Ireland to Europe or to leave without a deal.
The former has proved unacceptable. The latter is very unpopular. The result thus has been irreconcilable divisions within the conservative party and within the labour party.
A vote at the labour party conference on whether they should campaign for remain was turned into a confidence vote on Jeremy Corbyn, the brexiteer.
They concluded thus that labour should continue to offer the country a labour version of brexit which then would be put to the people in a deal or remain referendum.
They concluded so because there are plenty of labour MPs who are for leave, as are about 20% of their voters. So they want their cake and eat it too.
Conservatives threw out the cake completely, firing many remain MPs, losing their majority in the process, failed to get an election, and are now judged to have acted unlawfully.
With that being the political picture, it is starting to look like Libdems may actually have a realistic chance of forming a majority government.
That would be a political earthquake, not just for Britain or just for Europe, but the entire world as nationalism would have been kicked out with liberalism en march, something that may well bring authoritarians down in other countries.
In which case, Article 50 would just be revoked. The advisory referendum would once more be considered as just advisory, with plenty of irregularities during it by the leave campaign.
Britain would retain its seat at the top political table. Welcomed by Europe perhaps to a wide applause, with Ursula the blond then to call a people’s summit, a Citizen’s Assembly of sorts where for the first time since the French Revolution the people are to decide just how they are to be governed.
Such Citizens’ Assembly she has promised, and we are sure she will deliver, with it far more enriched by the presence of the British people in that congregation. A British people that want sovereignty, and may well see that the only way to have it is in the power bargaining with the new Europe which is to be set-up by the people.
For the British institutions will probably never grant a Citizens’ Assembly peacefully, yet Europe does not quite yet have institutions, so demanding a people’s representation through a sample of them having advisory or even law making powers in a house of parliament may well have to be the cost of consent for the establishment of the New Europe.
A proud continent, which since the time of Rome has always been one culture and to a great extent one people. A Europe that can raise Africa and bring peace to Arabia, economically integrate Russia and stand as a true sovereign in its own affairs.
A continent where the people may have real representation, not broken elections controlled by who has the richest backers. A continent that can in many ways be shaped in a British image.
It may thus be time for Brits to not run away from their great responsibility to themselves and the world, but instead champion those principles that made them great when they ruled the waves: Liberalism under Libdems who back then very often gained a majority.
So instead of 1930s, it is perhaps best to go back to the industrial revolution, which may be more fitting for an age that is undergoing a digital revolution.
For liberalism has served us far, far better than nationalism, and it is liberalism that has secured a century of peace and prosperity and hopefully will continue to secure centuries more.
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