How the U.K. Supreme Court’s Rebuke to Boris Johnson Remakes British Law

from NYTs

Britain’s all-consuming debate over Brexit has dragged another of its respected institutions into uncharted territory, as the Supreme Court struck down Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament, an extraordinary intervention by the judiciary into a political dispute.

The unanimous decision, handed down on Tuesday, is an unalloyed defeat for Mr. Johnson and will propel Britain into a fresh round of political turmoil. But it is even more significant for what it says about the role of the country’s highest court, which has historically steered clear of politics.

By ruling that Mr. Johnson acted unlawfully — and doing so in such stark language — the court asserted its right to curb a government that obstructed Parliament’s ability to “carry out its constitutional functions as a legislature and as the body responsible for the supervision of the executive.”

But critics warned that in taking upon itself the right to adjudicate disputes between the government and Parliament, the court would soon find itself thrust into the same charged, highly partisan waters that have politicized decisions of the United States Supreme Court in recent decades.

More here.

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4 Responses to How the U.K. Supreme Court’s Rebuke to Boris Johnson Remakes British Law

  1. Stephen Hoffman September 27, 2019 at 8:42 pm #

    The issue of Brexit is one that deserves significantly more international attention than it currently garners. An economy as large as the United Kingdom unilaterally leaving one of the largest open trade markets on the face of the planet is a move that will have tremendous impact on the landscape of the international economy for years. As a result of Brexit, trade is worsening consistently, relations with foreign powers are on thin ice and the people are awaiting a hard break from the Union, sure to shake the nation to its core. The situation with Boris Johnson makes the entire matter much more difficult to solve, as he has consistently created political distractions with his antics and misstatements, making it difficult to ascertain actual policy from the leader of one of the most powerful countries in the world. Johnson’s move to attempt to dismiss Parliament is the most recent of these antics, as he attempted to gain considerable power for himself in the transaction. The perspective that this article takes on the issue is very interesting, as it goes into detail about the partisan slant of the courts, one of the first real examples of this in recent British history. The court’s rule that dismissing the parliament would have been antithetical to the democratic process occurring within Britain is a major step, especially in its veracity of language. The court’s step in denying Johnson’s claim for dismissal is a major obstacle for Johnson and his administration to face, as their plans for how Brexit will occur have stalled in the parliament for months.
    This move by the court is a double-edged sword, as they will now be entangled within the issue of Brexit itself. It is likely that the Parliament will lean on decisions the court has made in prior cases now, which can assist in their argument but embroil a traditionally nonpartisan court in the middle of an incredibly partisan debate. The article notates how this is similar to the American Supreme court, which is an interesting comparison. The United States Supreme Court has always found itself in the middle of political discussions, even finding ways to significantly expand their power through their decisions. While the situations are similar from the relationship between the different branches of government, it is vastly different for the United Kingdom, as this is a new trend that they are not used to seeing. The date for Brexit is quickly approaching, so it is imperative that a deal is reached soon to avoid a hard and termless break.

  2. Rav Gill October 1, 2019 at 3:17 pm #

    Boris Johnson, the new Prime Minister of Britain has been causing one political controversy after another. The debate is around Brexit, but it seems we are all waiting for Boris Johnson’s next move on Brexit. Boris Johnson wanted to suspend Parliament because he wants to be able to pull Britain out of the European Union, but the U.K. Supreme Court had other plans in mind. They came down hard on Johson, but now it’s pulled them deep into uncharted territory, where the Supreme Court is now in the midst of politics. They have always managed to “… steer clear of politics” (How the U.K. … rebuke … British Law), however, in this issue they are the main player. According to the article, it is an “… extraordinary intervention by the judiciary into a political dispute” (How the U.K. … rebuke … British Law) because the Supreme Court has to stay independent of politics. It was ruled that Mr. Johnson “acted unlawfully” and tried to obstruct a branch of government’s job from being completed. Recently, we have seen the United States Supreme Court in the midst of political agendas and it seems like the U.K. Supreme Court is headed in the same direction. When Boris Johnson decided to bring Parliament into the middle of the fight, he brought the Queen of England, as well. The Supreme Court declared “… the prime minister’s action unlawful, it also declared the order itself, which Queen Elizabeth II issued at Mr. Johnson’s request, “unlawful, void, and of no effect”” (How the U.K. … rebuke … British Law) which is a big problem. The Queen doesn’t get involved in politics or laws and things because the Parliament does that, her opinion is considered, but she is independent of them.
    Personally, I think Boris Johnson needs to stop looking at our President and make his own decisions. The reason he is doing this is because he has an enticing offer with the United States, but I mean be reasonable. They need to look out for themselves and they will stay safe in the EU because when they pull out, there economy is going to hurt worse than it already is. In the United States, the Supreme Court evaluates and interprets what the Constitution says in relation to matters. For the Supreme Court of U.K., it has a few written laws and such, but not as big and clear as ours. Parliament is typically regarded as one with more power than the Supreme Court, but this time they truly showed who was in charge. Lady Hale, a justice in the Supreme Court said that “… the court had jurisdiction since the case involved an action that prevented Parliament from fulfilling its constitutional duty” (U.K. … rebuke … British Law) while lawyers for the government argued that they didn’t. Honestly, I think they did the right thing and it got everything moving again because this is a ridiculous abuse of Boris Johnson’s power. The amount of things that are completely irrelevant he has done since he has taken office is absurd. He needs to stop being a follower and lead his country as that was what he was elected to do. I think it’s frustrating when the highest court in the country is told that they are stepping out of line. With making this decision and stepping forward to make their presence known, I think the Supreme Court established “… that the prime minister is accountable to Parliament” (U.K. … rebuke … British Law) not the other way around. I understand that the Supreme Court was created recently, but that doesn’t mean you don’t respect the higher authority.
    I think what we are forgetting is the fact that the issue of pulling out of the Brexit is much bigger than we give it credit for. The U.K. has a huge economy and it is the port for so much business to pass through and happen. Another user wrote that “… trade is worsening consistently, relations with foreign powers are on thin ice …” (U.K. … rebuke … British law) which can be seen in their economy and the pound. Boris Johnson coming in and making this side ways moves isn’t helping anything because people aren’t paying attention to where it is due. The deadline of October 31st exists and I think someone is playing this trick on media where it is distracting them from the true intentions of the prime minister. When he became prime minister, he said in his speech that “The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts because we are going to restore trust in our democracy” (If Borish Johnson Gets … Brexit.. United Kingdom) as he promises to lead a successful fight. It seems like the wrong man has a shirt on and the right people don’t because once the U.K. exits the EU, it’s going to be all shirts off. Like I mentioned above the economy is going to take a hit and especially the currency which “… dropped to its lowest level in two years…” (If Borish Johnson Gets … Brexit.. United Kingdom). He is in a lose-lose scenario because he has no way of making up the money the companies will take a hit and the economy to. Another user wrote that “This move by the court is a double-edge sword…” (Hoffman) and I don’t see it as that. I think they will retreat back into their corner because they just wanted to make their position and power known. However, Boris Johnson needs to come out of whatever mindset he is in and see reality for what it is. Brexit will wound the United Kingdom like nothing has before.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2019/07/31/if-boris-johnson-gets-his-brexit-it-may-break-united-kingdom/

  3. Mai Le October 11, 2019 at 10:10 pm #

    The Supreme Court of the U.K. has recently ruled that the country’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson had unlawfully “prevented Parliament from fulfilling its constitutional duty.” This came after the fact that the Prime Minister requested Queen Elizabeth II to issue a 5-week Parliament suspension. Unlike the U.S, the U.K. Supreme Court rarely involves in politics and does not have a written constitutional power. Furthermore, the court was only recently established in 2009. As such, the Supreme Court’s rights for judicial review can definitely be challenged, while it also emphasized the fact there is no real system of checks and balances in place in the U.K.
    The fact that there are such little legal barriers is highly unfortunate when there is a leader who is very aggressive and outright abusing his power to make decisions that may not be the best for his country. Boris Johnson has been very clear on his stance about pulling the U.K. out of the European Union with no deal in place no matter the consequences, which is a rash and impatient decision for such a big economy that heavily relies on the benefit of free trade market established by the Union. For Brexit, this definitely was not the first time Mr. Johnson has left the impression of a dictator and the fear of weakening democracy in the heart of the U.K population. As the Supreme Court finally intervened, there is a high chance that this event will create a precedent in the future where the court would have garnered more legal power although it would be quite different from the U.S Supreme Court as the two countries have different governing structures.

  4. Lisa Tier October 21, 2019 at 4:27 pm #

    After making this difficult ruling, the U.K. Supreme Court should be very cautious in future proceedings. As enforcer of the law, it is crucial that the court and those within it tread lightly in political situations. The court and its representatives do not want to make any impression that they are siding with any political party. If suspicions were to be made of political bias, members of the court could be in jeopardy of losing their positions. Not only could members lose their jobs, but the lives of many could be affected. It is necessary for court rulings to me made from unbiased decisions based purely from the rights and procedures outlined in the law. This is the only way to offer fair and just rulings to the United Kingdom citizens.
    Finalizing this case also opens the possibility of more political disputes to enter the court’s doors. If the courts are not careful, they could end up like their American counterparts, where instead of the court changing politics, politics shape the court. In an article posted by the New York Times, the progression of the American Supreme Court into involvement in politics is shown. During Reagan’s term, opposition towards the Voting Rights Act was expressed by his administration to influence the decision of Congress to not make the act stronger. While Congress was not persuaded by this, the Supreme Court was. In 2009 the Supreme Court debated on whether this act was constitutional or not. This is just one example of various cases that have been influenced by politicians’ opinions and views. If the U.K. Supreme Court does not steer away from political involvement now, they could be on this path to making decisions influenced by politics. Decisions based on this influence are very dangerous, as they could ignore parts of the law.

    Citations

    Politics and the Supreme Court. (2012, February 4). Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/05/opinion/sunday/politics-and-the-supreme-court.html.

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