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Was Boris Johnson's move to prorogue parliament legal? Show more Show less

Boris Johnson took the decision to prorogue parliament for five weeks in the run-up to Britain's deadline for leaving the EU on October 31. His government argues that he was legally able to do so. The preceding parliamentary session was the longest on record and the prorogation was designed to bring it to a natural close. Opposition MPs believe Johnson's motives were to stymy debate and were, therefore, unconstitutional.
Johnson's decision was without legal precedent and in breach of the British constitution. It was illegal in the purest sense of the word.
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No legal precedent

Parliament has never been prorogued for as long as Mr Johnson proposed, leaving it without legal precedent.

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Context

Boris Johnson’s prorogation is far longer than any that preceded it, leaving it without legal precedent.

The Argument

Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament on September 12, 2019 was unprecedented in British political history. The new parliament wouldn't start until October 14, a full 33 days since the previous parliament ended. Not since 1931 had a parliament been prorogued for 33 days. Since the turn of the millennium, the average length of time between parliamentary sessions was 8 calendar days. [1] Boris Johnson's break with convention makes his prorogation unlawful. Because the British constitution is not a written, codified document, parliament and prime minister is bound by convention. Any breach of convention must be seen as an unlawful act.

Counter arguments

The parliamentary session running from June 21, 2017, to September 9, 2019, was the longest on record. It ran for 810 calendar days. To allow it to continue would have defied precedent and pushed parliament further into unchartered waters. [2] If, as Johnson's critics claim, convention is essential to the functioning of government, then they should celebrate the prorogation, not criticise it. Secondly, the length of the prorogation was also not unprecedented. Much of the period between sessions was already covered by the three-week parliamentary recess already planned for the party conferences. If you take this into account, the actual length of the prorogation was only seven days, not 33. This is a perfectly normal period of time to have between parliamentary sessions.[3]

Premises

[P1] Breaching parliamentary convention is unlawful. [P2] Boris Johnson's prorogation is a breach of parliamentary convention. [P3]Therefore, the prorogation is unlawful.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Boris Johnson's prorogation was not a breach of convention.

References

  1. https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/LLN-2019-0111
  2. https://www.thecanary.co/uk/news/2019/09/09/longest-uk-parliamentary-session-in-history-comes-to-an-end/
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/boris-johnson-suspend-parliament-supreme-court-hearing-brexit-election-a9109286.html

Proponents

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This page was last edited on Thursday, 19 Sep 2019 at 19:43 UTC