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Three legal challenges and two exits as Rees-Mogg dismisses ‘phoney’ outrage

Court bids have been launched in London, Belfast and Edinburgh amid the backlash to the decision to suspend Parliament.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

By Shaun Connolly, PA Political Correspondent

Boris Johnson was facing legal challenges in London, Edinburgh and Belfast as the backlash to his decision to suspend Parliament for over a month in the run up Brexit continued unabated.

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg hit back at the PM’s critics, saying the outpouring of outrage it triggered was “phoney”.

But Mr Johnson’s administration received a double blow as Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and whip Lord Young of Cookham quit their posts.

There are no precedents for the abuse of prorogation Aidan O'Neill QC

And the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator made it clear he was not ready to retreat on the issue of the Northern Ireland backstop, despite pressure from the Prime Minister.

Mr Barnier tweeted: “PM @BorisJohnson has said that the UK will leave the EU on 31 Oct. In all circumstances, the EU will continue to protect the interests of its citizens and companies, as well as the conditions for peace and stability on the island of Ireland. It is our duty & our responsibility.”

In her resignation speech Ms Davidson highlighted “the conflict I have felt over Brexit”.

Lord Young, a Government whip in the upper house who served as a minister under Margaret Thatcher, was more direct, saying he was “very unhappy” with the Prime Minister’s decision to prorogue Parliament for an extended period as the the October 31 deadline for Brexit looms.

Leading Brexiteer Mr Rees-Moggs hit back at critics, insisting the prorogation move was not intended to limit the time available for MPs to debate Brexit but will allow the Government to tackle other issues.

He said: “I think the outrage is phoney and it is created by people who don’t want us to leave the European Union and are trying very hard to overturn the referendum result and don’t want the benefits of leaving the European Union.”

He added: “Parliament wasn’t going to be sitting for most of this time anyway. This is completely constitutional and proper.”

Mr Rees-Mogg led the Government’s defence of the prorogation as Labour and opposition parties vowed to press ahead with attempts to block a no-deal Brexit using legislation despite the decision to suspend Parliament for more than a month before the Brexit deadline.

Shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: “It is going to be extremely difficult. That’s why the Government is disingenuous to say this is not about trying to stop us doing that.

“We will be seeking measures on Monday to try and have what is known as a Standing Order Section 24 debate. We will seek to try and put through the appropriate legislation in this constrained timetable that the Government has now put before us.

“Downing Street is lying when it claims this is about the conference recess. If he wanted to get on with his domestic agenda, he would in fact be having a shorter period of prorogation.”

Meanwhile, legal bids to challenge Boris Johnson’s prorogation move were launched at the High Courts in London and Belfast, and Scotland’s highest civil court.

A cross-party group of around 70 MPs and peers are backing the action at the Court of Session in Edinburgh after beginning a legal move earlier in the summer when they filed a petition aiming to stop Mr Johnson being able to prorogue Parliament.

They are now seeking an interim interdict which would stop the PM taking the option of suspension until a final decision has been made on the case.

Aidan O’Neill QC, representing the petitioners, told the court: “There are no precedents for the abuse of prorogation.”

An urgent application for a judicial review has also been made at the High Court in London by campaigner Gina Miller, who previously won a landmark ruling that MPs would have to vote before the Government could invoke Article 50 to formally start the UK’s exit process from the EU.

A judiciary spokeswoman said on Thursday: “We can confirm that an application for judicial review has been received from Gina Miller. The defendant is the Prime Minister. The application is being considered.”

We can confirm that an application for judicial review has been received from Gina Miller. The defendant is the Prime Minister. The application is being considered A judiciary spokeswoman

The legal bid in Belfast to injunct Boris Johnson’s move was adjourned for 24 hours after being launched by prominent victims campaigner Raymond McCord, who was also already pursing legal proceedings against the potential proroguing of Parliament.

Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan sat in Belfast High Court on Thursday morning for a briefing hearing during which he gave the legal parties 24 hours to prepare for a substantive hearing, which will be heard at 10am on Friday.

PA

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