The Supreme Court, the highest court in the UK, heard two appeals this week to determine whether Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was lawful. The two appeals were on the same matter but rulings from different courts – the High Court of England and Wales, and The Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh. The rulings will be monumental for the UK, setting the precedent in law for generations to come.
So when will we know the result?
The judgement is expected in the week beginning September 23.
The ruling will be decided by 11 of the 12 Supreme Court judges, to prevent a 50/50 ruling.
Most of the judges are English, two are Scottish, while one is from Northern Ireland and one from Wales.
The president of the court, Lady Hale, is one of three women at the Supreme Court.
As the case closed on Thursday, she spoke for the 11, saying “mone of this is easy”, adding they would produce an answer “as soon as we humanly can”.
Lady Hale has also emphasised this case, and the ruling the judges must deliver, is not actually about Brexit.
She said the court it “solely concerned” with whether it is lawful for Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament through a process called prorogation.
The cases are a major test for the UK’s unwritten constitution, and the ruling of the Supreme Court will define governmental powers going forward.
What are the two cases?
Two of the highest courts, one in England and one in Scotland, had previously considered the decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks – only to come to opposite conclusions.
England’s High Court, which uses a different legal system to Scotland, judges said it was lawful because it was a political matter, not a decision for the courts.
But in Scotland, the Inner House of the Court of Session ruled the government acted unlawfully because it had the “improper purpose of stymieing Parliament” in the crucial period before the 31 October Brexit deadline.
Here are the details of each:
Appeal 1: Gina Miller v The Prime Minister (High Court of England and Wales)
A challenge to prorogation was brought forward by pro-EU activist Gina Miller.
It was quashed by the High Court of England and Wales earlier this month on the grounds that the issue was “political” and therefore a “non-justiciable exercise of prerogative power”.
Ms Miller’s team had argued that it was an “unlawful abuse of power” and one that breached the legal principle of Parliamentary sovereignty and appealed the ruling.
Appeal 2: Cherry and others v Advocate General for Scotland (The Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh)
The Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh last week found that the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful.
A Government spokesman said the suspension was “necessary” to allow a new legislative agenda to be proposed.
The Government appealed the ruling.
But the three judges ruled that “its purpose was to stymie parliamentary scrutiny of the executive, which was a central pillar of the good governance principle enshrined in the constitution.”
If the Supreme Court upholds this judgment, the Commons could be forced to reconvene immediately, sparking a fresh round of Parliamentary drama.