September 3, 2019 / 1:57 PM / 3 months ago

Johnson planned parliament suspension weeks before announcement, court hears

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was looking to suspend parliament two weeks before this month’s planned shutdown was officially announced, a court was told on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the media outside Downing Street in London, Britain, September 2, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson/File Photo

Johnson announced at the end of August that he would suspend parliament from mid-September to mid-October, shortly before Britain is due to exit the European Union on Oct. 31, to allow the government to announce a new legislative programme.

Political opponents, who argue it was simply a tactic to prevent them from trying to stop a no-deal Brexit, had already turned to Scotland’s highest civil court to ask it to rule that it would be illegal and unconstitutional for parliament to be suspended before the EU exit date.

At a hearing on Tuesday, the lawyer representing more than 70 lawmakers told Scotland’s Court of Session that two weeks before Johnson’s announcement, he was sent a note from an aide asking if he wanted to prorogue, or suspend, parliament from mid-September.

A tick and the word “yes” was written on the document, lawyer Aidan O’Neill said.

He said a previous court hearing had been misled by government lawyers who had said the issue of prorogation was merely an academic matter. Johnson’s aides had also publicly denied a suspension was planned three days before it was finally announced.

O’Neill said Johnson had failed to provide a sworn legal statement to the court, adding the prime minister was “unable to tell the truth” and that his political life was characterised by “incontinent mendacity”.

The government’s lawyer David Johnston said the issue was a political matter which should not be decided in the courts and there was no law which defined the use of prorogation.

The lawmakers behind the case want the court to order that parliament cannot be suspended and the judge’s decision is expected on Wednesday.

The case is one of three legal bids to stop the prorogation with one challenge led by Gina Miller, who successfully forced former Prime Minister Theresa May to get parliamentary approval before formally giving the divorce notice to the EU, due before London’s High Court on Thursday.

Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison

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