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 UK Constitution and Brexit – Five Brief External Observations

As a constitutional lawyer one therefore cannot help but ask: What is happening to the British Constitution? What is going on with the political and parliamentary culture of a nation so proud of its parliamentary history? And what about the Queen? In the following, I would therefore like to share five very brief and somewhat unsystematic observations of these recent developments from a German perspective.

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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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Boris and the Queen: Lessons from Canada

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advice to the Queen that she prorogue Parliament for several weeks has sparked vociferous controversy. The unfortunate situation, which threatens to do real damage to constitutional, political and social relationships, has some analogues in former British dominions such as Canada.

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Prorogued until October?

The British government yesterday secured a prorogation of Parliament from the Queen. Parliament will stand prorogued no earlier than Monday 9th September and no later than Thursday 12th September 2019 to Monday 14th October 2019. For many commentators the weeks from now until 12 September and from 14 October to 31 October (the day the United Kingdom exits the European Union) were crucial. It tipped the balance of the prorogation from blindingly unconstitutional to constitutionally dubious, but permissible. Regardless of whether one finds this line of reasoning convincing, there is a threat that this prorogation can be extended indefinitely that has been largely overlooked: the Prorogation Act 1867.

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Unconstitutional Prorogation

On 1 April, the British Parliament again failed to agree on a plan for withdrawal from the European Union. It has now been suggested that the government should prorogue Parliament until after 12 April in order to terminate the current parliamentary debate. This would effectively silence Parliament to achieve its preferred version of Brexit without regard to principles of democracy and representative and responsible government.

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