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UK Supreme Court rules Boris Johnson acted unlawfully by suspending parliament

Protesters celebrating outside the Supreme Court in London, where judges have ruled that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks was unlawful. Pic: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

The United Kingdom's Supreme Court ruled today that Prime Minister Boris Johnson had acted unlawfully when he advised Queen Elizabeth to suspend parliament weeks before Brexit - and that therefore the suspension was void.

The ruling paves the way for legislators to return to parliament, where Mr Johnson has no majority. It could give lawmakers, most of whom are opposed to leaving without the EU without a divorce agreement as he has threatened to do, further opportunity to impede his strategy.

"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," Supreme Court President Brenda Hale said.

"Parliament has not been prorogued. This is the unanimous judgment of all 11 justices," she added. "It is for parliament, and in particular the speaker and the (House of) Lords speaker, to decide what to do next."

Parliament was suspended, or prorogued in the British jargon, from September 10 to October 14. The prorogation was approved by Queen Elizabeth, Britain's politically neutral head of state, on the advice of the prime minister.

"I welcome the Supreme Court’s judgment that the prorogation of Parliament was unlawful," said the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow.

"As the embodiment of our Parliamentary democracy, the House of Commons must convene without delay. To this end, I will now consult the party leaders as a matter of urgency."

Some lawmakers, including those thrown out of Mr Johnson's Conservative Party for rebelling against his Brexit plans, had said he should resign if he was found to have misled the queen.

Mr Johnson has said that the Supreme Court ruling against him had hindered his attempt to get a Brexit deal but that as the law currently stood, the United Kingdom would leave the European Union on October 31.

“As the law currently stands, the UK leaves the EU on October 31 come what may but the exciting thing for us now is to get a good deal," Mr Johnson told reporters in New York.

"And that is what we are working on. And to be honest it is not made much easier by this kind of stuff in parliament or in the courts," he said.

"As the law stands, we leave on October 31 and I am very hopeful that we will get a deal and I think what the people of the country want is to see parliamentarians coming together working in the national interest to get this thing done and that is what we are going to do," he added.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn told delegates at the Labour Party's annual conference in Brighton that Mr Johnson should "consider his position".

REACTIONS

ACTIVIST GINA MILLER, ONE OF THE PEOPLE WHO BROUGHT THE LEGAL ACTION:

"Crucially today's ruling confirms that we are a nation governed by the rule of law, laws that everyone, even the prime minister, is not above," she said. "MPs should turn up for work tomorrow and get on with scrutinising this government."

SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY'S WESTMINSTER LEADER, IAN BLACKFORD:

"This is an absolutely stunning judgment by the Supreme Court today, none of us anticipated that we would have a result such as this," he said.

"We must be back in parliament immediately, I know the speaker is going to be talking with all the party leaders, we want to get back to work and quite frankly on the back of this Boris Johnson must resign."

LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER JO SWINSON:

"This confirms what we already knew – Boris Johnson isn’t fit to be prime minister. He’s misled queen and country, and unlawfully silenced the people’s representatives. I’m on my way to resume my duties in the Commons and stop Brexit altogether," she said.

SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY MP JOANNA CHERRY, WHO BROUGHT CASE IN SCOTLAND

"Delighted that @UKSupremeCourt have followed Scottish court & found that @BorisJohnson acted unlawfully in #Prorogation of U.K. parliament. We must resume immediately & he must resign #Cherrycase #Brexit #StopTheCoup," she said on Twitter.

SCOTLAND'S FIRST MINISTER, SCOTTISH NATIONAL PARTY LEADER NICOLA STURGEON:

"This is the most significant and historical constitutional court ruling that we've had in all of our lifetimes.

"Boris Johnson should resign, this is a prime minister who has been found by the UK Supreme Court to have acted unlawfully, seeking to evade scrutiny without good reason.

"If the prime minister isn't prepared to do the decent and honourable thing in tendering his resignation, then I think parliament should quickly come together to force this prime minister from office."

CONSERVATIVE LAWMAKER ANDREW BRIDGEN:

"I am deeply, deeply disappointed, for our country and our democracy," he told Reuters. "I am truly ashamed of this parliament, the sooner we have a General election the better."

LAWMAKER FROM PM'S RULING CONSERVATIVE PARTY:

"Obviously, we have to accept it. It just highlights the constitutional imbalance that we now have. (Former Labour prime minister) Tony Blair has a lot of responsibility in this regard. His reforms were ill judged and have caused constitutional damage to the country,” the lawmaker told Reuters on condition of anonymity because Conservative parliamentary enforcers, or whips, have asked Conservatives to offer no comment on the ruling.

DEMOCRATIC UNIONIST PARTY LEADER ARLENE FOSTER:

"We have always respected the principle of the separation of powers upon which our constitutional law is founded. Therefore the judgment of the Supreme Court has to be respected," she said on Twitter.

OPPOSITION LABOUR PARTY TOP LEGAL ADVISER SHAMI CHAKRABARTI:

"Boris Johnson has been called out today by the Supreme Court, the highest court in these islands. He has behaved like a tin-pot dictator," she said in a statement.

"Boris Johnson needs to reflect on this judgment and consider his position."

BREXIT PARTY LEADER NIGEL FARAGE:

"The calling of a Queen's Speech and prorogation is the worst political decision ever. Dominic Cummings must go," He said on Twitter, referring to the prime minister's senior adviser.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION:

Declines to comment on "internal constitutional matters".

This story will be updated as events unfold