Johnson says Supreme Court was wrong to block suspension of Parliament
The Prime Minister repeated his call for a general election to end the ‘paralysed Parliament’ which had failed to deliver Brexit.
A defiant Boris Johnson has hit out at the Supreme Court saying it was “wrong” to intervene in a political matter at a time of “great national controversy” over Brexit.
The Prime Minister returned to Westminster after cutting short his visit to the United Nations General Assembly in New York to face MPs after the court ruled his suspension of Parliament was unlawful.
Amid raucous scenes in the Commons chamber, he said Parliament was “paralysed” and accused MPs of “sabotaging” Brexit negotiations by seeking to prevent him taking the UK out of the EU on October 31, with or without a deal.
He challenged opposition parties to table a motion of no confidence or back a general election in order to “finally face the day of reckoning with the voters”.
However, Mr Johnson also infuriated many MPs after he suggested the best way to honour the memory of murdered MP Jo Cox – an ardent Remainer who was killed just days before the 2016 referendum – was to “get Brexit done”.
Earlier, there was uproar as he dismissed as “humbug” an appeal from a Labour MP to curb his inflammatory language over Brexit as she recalled what happened to Ms Cox.
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson described his comments as “sickening”.
“Boris Johnson demeaned that office with his words today, and he should apologise immediately for them,” she said.
Mr Johnson was humiliated by Tuesday’s Supreme Court judgment which overturned his advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament until October 14.
However he told MPs: “It is absolutely no disrespect to the judiciary to say I thought the court was wrong to pronounce on what was a political question at a time of great national controversy.”
In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn repeated his call for the Prime Minister to quit.
“After yesterday’s ruling the Prime Minister should have done the honourable thing and resigned,” he said.
Opposition parties will not back an election until they are sure that a no-deal Brexit is off the table and they are suspicious that Mr Johnson will not comply with the terms of the Benn Act which is aimed at delaying Brexit beyond the October 31 deadline if no agreement has been reached.
Downing Street said if the opposition parties did not take up the offer to stage a vote of no-confidence they would take it as a sign MPs did have confidence in the Government and a “mandate” to press on with Brexit.
“It is time to put up or shut up,” a Number 10 source said.
A defiant Mr Johnson taunted Mr Corbyn over his refusal to back an election.
“I think the people outside this House understand what is happening,” he said.
“Out of sheer selfishness and political cowardice they are unwilling to move aside and let the people have a say.
“This Parliament must either stand aside and let this Government get Brexit done or bring a vote of confidence and finally face the day of reckoning with the voters.”
The Labour leader dismissed the “bluster from a dangerous Prime Minister who thinks he is above the law”, adding: “In truth, he is not fit for the office that he holds.”
Johnson should stop his shameful game playing. If he requests an extension and removes risk of no deal on 31 October, @theSNP will vote for an election. The ball’s in his court. But he must think we button up the back if he believes we’ll let him force through a no deal Brexit.— Nicola Sturgeon (@NicolaSturgeon) September 25, 2019
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would back an election if Mr Johnson requested a Brexit delay.
“The ball’s in his court,” she said.
“But he must think we button up the back if he believes we’ll let him force through a no-deal Brexit.”
In an interview with ITV, Mr Johnson said he would both “respect the law” and leave the EU on October 31 – but refused to say how.
Earlier Attorney General Geoffrey Cox also faced questions about his legal advice which indicated the five-week suspension – known as prorogation – would be within the law.
Mr Cox told MPs he will consider whether the public interest might require a “greater disclosure” of advice given to the Government on the prorogation.
The response to the court case – including reported comments by Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg describing it as a “constitutional coup” – have caused unease about the Government’s attitude to the judiciary.
Mr Cox, speaking in the Commons with Mr Rees-Mogg watching on, said: “I don’t think it was a constitutional coup”, but “these things can be said in the heat of rhetorical and poetical licence”.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland defended the independence of “our world-class judiciary”.
The resumption of the parliamentary session could cause problems for the Tory conference, which is due to begin on Sunday and stretch until Wednesday.
If opposition MPs refuse to vote for a recess, the conference will have to be rejigged or curtailed, not least because Mr Johnson’s leader’s speech in Manchester would be on Wednesday when he would normally be expected to face Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.