“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”
- UK Supreme Court judgement, 24 September 2019
What did the judgement say?
The Supreme Court has today ruled unanimously that the matter of prorogation was justiciable (for the Courts to take a view on) and unlawful. There was no justification for the prorogation and the effect is that Parliament was never prorogued. It is now up to the Speaker and Lords Speaker to decide what to do next.
Lady Hale called the decision to prorogue “unlawful, void, and of no effect”. This means that the laws that ended their journey through Parliament at prorogation are now back in action, and the Queen’s Speech has been cancelled. The Court described this as “not a normal prorogation” and stated “no explanation has been put for such extreme action”. “It is impossible for us to conclude on the evidence... that there was any reason - let alone a good reason - to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks.”
During the case the Government argued it was “forbidden territory” for judges to intervene on political arguments such as prorogation. The Supreme Court, however, declared that “this prolonged suspension of Parliamentary democracy took place in quite exceptional circumstances” given the timing of prorogation in relation to the planned Brexit date. Given “the effect upon the fundamentals of our democracy was extreme” the Court agreed unanimously that it had was right for the courts to exercise its supervisory jurisdiction over the lawfulness of the Government’s actions.
The Speaker of the House of Commons has already said Parliament must convene as a matter of urgency. He has instructed the House authorities to prepare for the resumption (not recall) of the business of the House of Commons – and that he expects this to happen from 11.30 on Wednesday morning. He has already spoken to political leaders, or where that has not been possible, senior leadership
Parliamentary procedure requires specified notice to have been given to hold Prime Minister’s Questions – it will not be possible, therefore, to hold these tomorrow (25th September). The Speaker has made clear, however, that he will be open to Urgent Questions, Ministerial Statements and applications for emergency debates under Standing Order 24. This will, therefore, allow all political parties to have their opportunity for their voice to be heard on the Government’s decision to prorogue Parliament and on its Brexit policy as well as giving the Government the right of reply. The Prime Minister is currently in New York preparing to address the United Nations – will he cut his visit short to respond to MPs?
What does this mean for manufacturers?
Make UK continues to press Government and Parliament to take a no-deal Brexit off the table. This judgement makes clear that there are circumstances, albeit exceptional, in which the courts will intervene to ensure that Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons as the elected representatives of the people, have a right to a voice in how a constitutional change as significant as Brexit comes about.
Given the current Parliament has voted consistently and firmly to oppose a no-deal Brexit today’s judgement should provide some reassurance to manufacturers that a no-deal Brexit on 31 October is less likely today than it was yesterday. Make UK will continue to fight to get a no-deal Brexit on any date off the negotiating table in order to protect UK manufacturers.
UK manufacturing needs to have certainty and stability to stop being forced to take damaging, short term decisions. Make UK still believes that a Brexit deal which works for manufacturing is the best solution and we will continue to push politicians to work together to secure a deal. A deal which delivers certainty about the future trading environment that manufacturers need to protect our global strength. A deal that achieves the four outcomes that manufacturers consistently tell us they need: frictionless trade; access to skills; close regulatory and technical alignment; and a properly planned and delivered transition and implementation period.
Head of Brexit Policy, Make UK