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Johnson’s shock parliament suspension sparks legal bids

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Nationwide protests as over a million people sign a petition against the five-week shutdown

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament weeks before Britain's EU departure date faced legal challenges yesterday following a furious outcry from pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

The Conservative leader announced the surprise decision on Wednesday to dismiss Parliament - known as proroguing - for nearly five weeks next month, claiming it was necessary to allow him to pursue a "bold and ambitious" new domestic agenda.

But the move sent shock waves through the British political system, which relies on centuries of precedents and conventions instead of a codified Constitution.

Opponents labelled the suspension a "coup" and a "constitutional outrage", and it prompted immediate court bids in London and Edinburgh to halt the process.

Ms Gina Miller, a leading anti-Brexit campaigner, said she had applied for an urgent judicial review challenging "the effect and the intention" of the suspension.

"We think that this request is illegal," said Ms Miller, who in 2017 successfully won MPs the right to vote on formally starting to leave the EU in a court challenge.

"There is no example in modern history when prorogation has been used in this way," she told BBC radio.

"It is clearly being used to hamper, in our view, Parliament legislating against no deal."

Meanwhile, Scottish National Party politician Joanna Cherry said lawyers had applied for an urgent interim hearing at Scotland's highest civil court.


However, arch-Brexiteer Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg defended the suspension and insisted MPs would still have time to debate Brexit ahead of Britain's Oct 31 EU departure date.

"The candyfloss of outrage, which is almost entirely confected, is from people who never wanted to leave the European Union," he told BBC radio.

Thousands of people protested in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and other cities, while an online petition seeking to block the decision had garnered more than 1.2 million signatures early yesterday.

Mr Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, denounced the move as "a smash-and-grab against democracy" and reiterated that he may call a no-confidence vote.

Labour's Barry Gardiner said yesterday that the party would push for an emergency debate when Parliament returned on Monday to kick-start the legislative process to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Former Conservative chancellor Philip Hammond also pledged to keep fighting against no deal.

"It would be a constitutional outrage if Parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national crisis," he said. - AFP