Johnson accused in Scottish court of seeking ‘autocracy’
In Edinburgh’s Court of Session, Aiden O’Neill QC has been arguing this morning for a petition against prorogation of parliament by accusing prime minister Boris Johnson of exceeding the government’s power and seeking to exercise “autocracy” and “one-man rule”, writes Mure Dickie in Edinburgh.
The petition by more than 70 UK parliamentarians, which is backed by the Good Law Project set up by anti-Brexit barrister Jo Maugham, is asking the court to bar Mr Johnson from suspending parliament in order to make it impossible to block a no-deal Brexit.
Mr O’Neill said:
We have a prime minister who is seeking to hold office without accountability…the better to use power without responsibility. That is not a situation that this court can permit
The prime minister insists that prorogation will still leave parliament ample time to debate the terms of Brexit before the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31.
Lawyers for the UK government say that prorogation is an act of the queen that is not subject to judicial review.
The UK government has said that prorogation is routine ahead of a Queen’s Speech which is needed to set out its legislative plans.
Mr O’Neill said there was no justification for such a long suspension and the court was entitled to draw inferences from Mr Johnson’s decision not to submit an affadivit under oath explaining his intentions.
The prime minister had a record of “incontinent mendacity”, he said.
Mr O’Neill also complained of being “ambushed” by the submission of new UK government documents in the case late on Monday night, well after a deadline set by the court.
The documents included memos submitted to Mr Johnson and his response to them while the government was planning the prorogation of parliament in August.
“It’s all part of a general disregard, as if they are above the law and above the rules,” Mr O’Neill said of the late submission.
Acting for the UK government, David Johnston QC apologised for the late submission, which he suggested was caused by the “fast moving” political situation. Mr Johnston said the documents would be used in a separate application for judicial review of the prorogation order that will be heard at the High Court in London on Thursday.
Judge Lord Doherty accepted the submission of the documents saying it would be “highly artificial” for the Court of Session to proceed on a different basis from the High Court.
The court has broken for lunch. Lord Doherty is expected to issue a decision on the parliamentarians’ petition on Wednesday, with the almost inevitable appeal to be heard by Court of Session’s higher Inner House to be heard later this week. A final decision on the legal challenges is likely to be made by the UK Supreme Court.