POSTS BY Joelle Grogan

The Rule of Law, not the Rule of Politics

On 24 September 2019, just two weeks after Parliament had been controversially prorogued by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, the UK Supreme Court handed down a unanimous judgment holding that such prorogation was ‘unlawful, null, and of no effect’. Parliament was not and had never been prorogued. But this is not likely to be the end of such questioning of the fundamentals of the constitution and – in particular – the limits of executive power.

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Where Power Lies or Where Power Lied?

Tomorrow, on Tuesday 17 September, the UK Supreme Court will be asked to consider appeals from the Court of Session in Scotland, and the High Court in England on the question of whether prime minister Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen to prorogue parliament was lawful. Such a question will oblige the court to consider foundational questions of the separation of powers and the division between law and politics. It will also have to decide whether the motives of executive decision-making can be judged against principles of parliamentary sovereignty, democracy and the rule of law. If the Supreme Court finds the advice was unlawful, an even more difficult question arises in what sort of order may be given to remedy such a legal wrong: can the court order Parliament to return to a session which has ended, or the Queen to ‘un-prorogue’?

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The Commission’s Rule of Law Blueprint for Action: A Missed Opportunity to Fully Confront Legal Hooliganism

In its first Communication entitled “Further strengthening the Rule of Law within the Union” published on 3 April 2019, the Commission offered a useful overview of the state of play while also positively inviting all stakeholders to make concrete proposals so as to enhance the EU’s “rule of law toolbox”. A follow up Communication from July 2019 sets out multiple “concrete actions for the short and medium term”. This post will highlight the most innovative actions proposed by the Commission before highlighting what we view as the main weakness of its blueprint: a reluctance to fully accept the reality of rule of law backsliding.

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The Next Few Days Will Reveal where the Heart of Power Lies in the British Constitution

Were the UK government to ignore a Supreme Court judgment finding the advice to prorogue illegal, or even refuse to recognise an Act of Parliament directing action to prevent a no-deal Brexit, this would be a constitutional crisis. This will bring all institutions into conflict – most immediately the crown, which may be obligated (one way or another) to make an extremely polarising political choice.

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Prorogation is a Paper Tiger, but Time is the Elephant

There are 15 weeks left until the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU. A new leader of the Conservative party, and so de facto Prime Minister, will be chosen by party members and presented to Parliament just before it plans to rise for summer recess on 25 July. A point of distinction between the two candidates for Conservative leadership is on the exercise of a power to prorogue Parliament in order to ensure the UK’s withdrawal on 31 October 2019: Jeremy Hunt will not use the power, Boris Johnson will not rule it out. The threat of prorogation, if serious, could prove a catalyst for constitutional crisis.

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Suffering from Withdrawal – Controversy in the UK EU (Withdrawal) Bill

Beginning today, the EU (Withdrawal) Bill (EUWB) will return to the UK House of Commons, where all 15 amendments made to the EUWB by the House of Lords will be debated over only two days. The EUWB is arguably one of the most contentious and complex pieces of legislation to be presented to the British Parliament in this century. The amendments are a response to the concerns regarding the broad discretion across an unknown expanse of law with an almost-unfettered use of legislative power by the executive.

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