U.K. Lawmakers Plan Scottish Suit to Block Parliament Suspension

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(Bloomberg) -- A group of U.K. lawmakers is planning a Scottish court battle to stop a future prime minister from suspending Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit.

The lawmakers -- Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, and Joanna Cherry from the Scottish National Party -- want the court to say it wouldn’t be lawful for a prime minister to ask the Queen to suspend Parliament. Swinson was elected to lead the party on Monday.

Such a ruling “would bind the U.K. prime minister” because he’d have to follow Scottish law, said Jolyon Maugham, an attorney involved with the case. The group told the government’s legal representative in Scotland that it will sue in seven days.

Boris Johnson, the favorite to become the U.K.’s next prime minister when the ruling Conservative Party announces the result of its leadership race this week, has refused to rule out suspending Parliament to get Brexit done by Oct. 31.

It’s one of several possible suits that may seek to stop a future prime minister from circumventing lawmakers. Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller said last week she’s already begun a challenge on the issue. Former Prime Minister John Major has also said he would be ready to take the government to court if the incoming leader tries to suspend Parliament.

“Liberal Democrats will do everything we possibly can to stop the next Tory prime minister from crashing the U.K. out of the EU,” Swinson said in a statement. “Even entertaining the idea” of suspending Parliament “is reckless and demonstrates the degree to which Boris Johnson will always put his own career ahead of the future of our country,” she said.

Maugham spearheaded a landmark case that led the EU’s top court to rule in December that Britain can reverse the Brexit process if it chooses to. He’ll use the precedent of that case to argue that the court should state the law before an attempt to suspend Parliament actually takes place. A ruling could come in time for the new Parliamentary session, which starts in September, he said.

To be sure, any ruling in favor of the lawmakers could potentially be overturned by a higher court in Scotland, or by the U.K. Supreme Court.

The lawmakers behind the Scottish suit expect colleagues from the Labour Party, Green Party and Plaid Cymru, and independent MPs, to join the case, according to a letter outlining plans for the suit. That includes Heidi Allen, who quit the Conservative Party in February to join the anti-Brexit Change UK group, which she has since left.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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