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PM must wait for court ruling on suspension of Parliament

PM Boris Johnson arrives by helicopter to visit military personnel at Salisbury Plain training area yesterday
PM Boris Johnson arrives by helicopter to visit military personnel at Salisbury Plain training area yesterday

By Sian Harrison

Prime Minister Boris Johnson faces a wait for a ruling from the UK's highest court over his advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks.

The Supreme Court in London has been asked to determine whether the prorogation move - which has closed down Parliament until October 14 - was unlawful.

A panel of 11 justices heard appeals over three days arising out of separate legal challenges in England and Scotland, in which leading judges reached different conclusions.

At the close of the unprecedented hearing yesterday, the court's president Lady Hale said the judges hope to give their decision early next week.

Depending on the legal basis upon which the judges reach their conclusions, Parliament may have to reconvene if Mr Johnson - who has refused to rule out a second suspension - loses the case.

Documents submitted to the court revealed three possible scenarios in the event the court rules the suspension was unlawful, two of which could see the Prime Minister make a fresh decision to prorogue Parliament.

The other outcome could see the court order Parliament to be recalled, but Mr Johnson's lawyers urged the judges to consider the "very serious practical consequences" involved in this option, as it would require a new Queen's Speech and State Opening of Parliament.

Lawyers for Mr Johnson's opponents said Parliament should meet "urgently" after the ruling to decide what to do in the event the prorogation is declared "null" by the court.

Asked shortly after the hearing ended to rule out proroguing Parliament for a second time, Mr Johnson said: "I have the greatest respect for the judiciary in this country. The best thing I can say at the moment whilst their deliberations are continuing is that obviously I agree very much with the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chief Justice and others who found in our favour the other day."

He added: "I will wait to see what transpires."

The panel of 11 justices also heard submissions on behalf of the Welsh and Scottish governments and Northern Irish victims campaigner Raymond McCord. Ronan Lavery QC, representing Mr McCord, told the court that the EU was "a peace project" which was "designed to remove the significance of national identity".

He added: "The Good Friday Agreement itself was premised on continuing EU membership."

Mr Lavery said that a no-deal exit from the EU would lead to "the erection of the border" in Ireland.

But Supreme Court president Lady Hale responded: "We are solely concerned with the lawfulness or otherwise of the Prime Minister's advice to Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for a period of five weeks.

"We are not concerned with when and how and on what terms the UK leaves the EU."

Mr Lavery referred to Mr Johnson's pledge to leave the UK on October 31 as "do or die", submitting that "that battleground language" suggested a "scorched earth policy in relation to Northern Ireland".

Lord Wilson said he was "worried" about Mr Lavery's submissions, adding: "Now, don't abuse our politeness and don't abuse Lady Hale's patience."

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