Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen to suspend parliament for five weeks was an ‘unlawful abuse of power’, leading judges have heard.
Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, sitting with two other judges at the High Court in London, is being urged to make a declaration that the decision taken to advise the Queen to prorogue parliament was unlawful.
The urgent judicial review application to contest the prime minister’s decision has been brought by businesswoman Gina Miller, who successfully challenged the government at the high court in 2016 over the triggering of the Article 50 process to start the Brexit countdown.
Her case is supported by a number of other parties, including former prime minister Sir John Major, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, and Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson.
The action is being contested by the prime minister, whose lawyers will argue that the advice given to the Queen was not unlawful.
Lord Pannick QC, representing Miller, told the judges: “The prorogation is timed to occur at a period of acute political crisis, with the UK scheduled to leave the European Union on 31 October 2019 but with no agreement having been concluded between the UK and the EU on the terms of its withdrawal.
“The claimant submits that the effect of the prorogation, when time is of the essence in the lead-up to the 31 October 2019 deadline, has the effect of seriously impeding the exercise of parliament’s functions, as the prime minister well knew.
“There is no justification for closing parliament in this way and, accordingly, it represents an unjustified undermining of parliamentary sovereignty which is the bedrock of our constitution.”
He added: “Our case is that the prime minister’s advice to Her Majesty to prorogue parliament for a period of five weeks is an unlawful abuse of power.”
Lord Pannick told the Lord Chief Justice: “The prime minister’s decision to prorogue parliament is contrary to constitutional principle and constitutes an abuse of power.”
The hearing in London comes the day after Johnson fought off a similar action in Scotland.
The supreme civil court in Scotland could be poised to release the documents associated with the case, which relate to cabinet meetings and correspondence with the prime minister.
The Inner House judges are considering making the documents available to the media in the “interest of open justice”.