Boris Johnson is in deep trouble. But the British Prime Minister behaves as if everything is under control and he would take Britain out of the European Union on October 31. After the stinging rebuke from the Supreme Court on Tuesday which found that he had unlawfully suspended Parliament, Johnson’s future was uncertain. However, using his trademark bluster and bluff, he pretended everything is okay. Yes, he would respect the court verdict but he ‘disagreed profoundly’ with it. No, he would not quit, despite demands from various quarters, including the Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The Scottish High Court a few days ago had ruled the five-week prorogation of Parliament as illegal while suggesting that the Prime Minister had misled the Queen, a serious offence liable to attract removal from office and even imprisonment. The full 11-member Supreme Court stopped short of explicitly suggesting that he had misled the monarch, but it was no less critical of suspension of Parliament, calling it ‘void and of no effect.’ The court echoed the MPs, some from Johnson’s own Conservative Party, that the suspension was meant to ‘frustrate or prevent the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.’ Suspension came at a critical time when Britain’s future was to be determined. The court rejected the government plea that the suspension was a political matter and, therefore, not justiciable.
The executive did not have ‘unfettered powers’ to do what it liked even in its own designated spheres and, therefore, its actions were open to judicial review. The justification by the government for suspension of Parliament was not ‘reasonable’ and, therefore, dismissed as illegal. Tuesday’s court verdict is the latest blow to Johnson since he took over as prime minister from Theresa May two months ago. His repeated proclamations that he would take Britain out of the EU, deal or no deal, on October 31st, only worried the MPs who passed a Bill making it binding on him to seek an extension of deadline to leave the EU rather than quit without a deal.
A no-deal Brexit, a number of experts have warned, could prove disruptive for the British economy, jeopardizing food and essential medicine supplies, causing mayhem at the border, clogged ports and airports, etc, and inflicting huge losses on business and industry. The flamboyant Johnson, who some surmise may be a lost cousin of Donald Trump given the similarity of their manner and bluff politics, seemed to take the court rebuke in his stride, still insisting on taking Britain out of the EU on October 31. His gambit for a snap poll by mid-October was rebuffed by the Opposition which has enjoined on him to first seek an extension from the EU beyond October 31, renegotiate the deal and then hold a fresh election. Johnson believes being a better campaigner, he can rally round the entire Breixt vote while the Opposition would be divided.
Besides, Corbyn lags in popularity thanks to his extreme leftist agenda, including re-nationalization of essential services such as water, rail, mail, energy companies, etc. Paradoxically, the Brexit supporters are mostly relatively poor who tend to vote Labour though Johnson now monopolizes the Brexit platform while the Remainers are well-to-do people who essentially support Tories but are now fiercely opposed to Johnson’s hard Brexit. No other issue in recent times has caused fissures in established parties and social and economic communities as has Brexit.
Twenty-one sitting Tory MPs were expelled by Johnson when they voted for the Bill which bound him not to leave the EU without a deal and instead seek a further extension from the EU. It is notable that one of the petitioners who challenged the suspension of Parliament was a former Tory Prime Minister John Major. Meanwhile, the Labour Party annual conference in Brighton was cut short to enable MPs to attend Parliament which assembled on Wednesday following the voiding of its suspension.
Before it concluded its proceedings, Corbyn in his address to the party conference sought Johnson’s resignation following the Supreme Court verdict. But one man who, predictably, stood by the beleaguered Johnson was Trump, commenting ‘it was just another day in the office’ for the British Prime Minister. Typical, of course. Birds of a feather flock together. Incidentally, Trump has been dangling a ‘beautiful deal, a great (trade) deal’ before Johnson the moment the UK leaves the EU.