Judge rejects bid to block UK parliament suspension

Judge rejects bid to block UK parliament suspension

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Reuters file photo

Opponents of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's move to suspend parliament in the final weeks before Brexit lost the first of several legal bids to stop him on Friday.

Scottish judge Raymond Doherty rejected the request for a temporary injunction pending a full hearing in the case on September 6.

"I'm not satisfied that there's a need for an interim suspension or an interim interdict to be granted at this stage," Doherty said in his ruling.

Queen Elizabeth II has already given the go-ahead to shutter parliament between mid-September and October 14 -- just two weeks before the Brexit date of October 31.

The move was widely seen as limiting the time for parliamentarians to move against Johnson, who has said Britain must leave the EU with or without a deal.

Legal bids to halt the suspension have also been launched in Belfast and London.

Former prime minister John Major, a strong supporter of EU membership, has said he will seek to join the London legal action.

Johnson announced the surprise decision Wednesday to dismiss parliament -- known as proroguing -- next month for nearly five weeks.

The move sent shockwaves through British politics, triggering a furious outcry from pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal exit.

Wrong-footed, Johnson's opponents labelled the suspension of parliament a "coup" and a "constitutional outrage".

Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said only around four days of parliamentary time would be lost.

"The idea that this is some kind of constitutional outrage is nonsense."

Britain's Brexit negotiators are to meet their EU counterparts twice a week throughout September in a bid to reach a new divorce agreement.

Johnson said he wants to "step up the tempo" in talks with the European Union to strike a new Brexit deal.

Johnson wants the so-called backstop, the fallback provisions regarding the Irish border, scrapped completely.

"While I have been encouraged with my discussions with EU leaders over recent weeks that there is a willingness to talk about alternatives to the anti-democratic backstop, it is now time for both sides to step up the tempo," he said.

There are growing concerns among some major players in the EU that Britain will not be able to come up with realistic alternatives to the backstop in time.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said they were willing to work "24/7 throughout this long process".

"We expect the UK to come forward with concrete proposals as President (Jean-Claude) Juncker made clear to Prime Minister Johnson earlier this week."

The backstop is included in a divorce deal the EU agreed with Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May, which parliament has rejected three times.

Ireland's Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said Britain had come up with "nothing credible" to replace the backstop.

"If that changes, great," he said in Helsinki.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said after meeting Raab at the summit: "It is now necessary for time reasons to put the (proposals) on the table as soon as possible."

Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn added: "I still hope that reason will prevail."

Beyond the courts, Johnson's opponents are planning all manner of moves to stop him in his tracks.

Shami Chakrabarti, Labour's chief legal advisor, warned on BBC radio: "We will use any means necessary to prevent this undemocratic behaviour -- that includes people taking to the streets."

Protests are planned Saturday in several cities, with some organisers calling for roads and bridges to be occupied.

The leaders of the six opposition parties in parliament said they believed a majority of MPs were against Johnson's move.

"We demand that the prime minister reverses this decision immediately or allows MPs to vote on whether there should be one," they said of the suspension.

"The prime minister is shutting down parliament with the sole aim of stopping MPs from avoiding a no-deal Brexit."

Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would try to start a parliamentary process that would allow Johnson's opponents to legislate to prevent Britain leaving the EU without a deal and to stop the suspension of business.

Corbyn is also mulling a no-confidence vote in Johnson's Conservative government, which commands a fragile 320 to 319 majority.

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