Prorogation of Parliament and the Supreme Court Judgement

Before getting too carried away by excited talk of parliament being bypassed, it is important to note that MPs will have the opportunity to debate the government’s approach to Brexit in the run up to the European Council meeting on 17 and 18 October, with key votes on any potential deal we might strike taking place on 21 and 22 October. At this point, when the terms of a prospective deal have been made clear, parliamentarians will be better placed to properly scrutinise the government’s Brexit plans rather than, as presently, doing so in a vacuum.

Though I would not have wished for it to reach this point, the decision to prorogue parliament is not unconstitutional, nor illegal. It is not a coup. It is a permitted use of the powers accorded to the executive. Over the past three years, parliament has had ample time to debate Brexit and prevent a No Deal. Indeed, I voted for the Withdrawal Agreement at every opportunity, while some more self-indulgent colleagues chose instead to play political games which have led us to this precarious juncture.

Looking past the hyperbole, it is important to remember that the government’s primary objective is to leave the EU in a managed way that minimises harm to business and maximises opportunities outside the Single Market. I have always maintained that a No Deal departure would be highly undesirable for both the UK and EU and remain confident that both parties will find a compromise at the eleventh hour that averts such an eventuality. Our best hope of achieving this is if we maintain a credible commitment to No Deal preparations that persuades EU leaders to make concessions. Encouragingly, there are signs that they might be willing to talk, though this would soon dissipate should they sense a Brexit derailment by parliament.

Be assured that parliament will again be given the chance to vote on a final deal with the EU, at which point colleagues must assume responsibility for the immediate future prosperity of the country by voting for the government’s deal and avoiding the calamity of us crashing out on 31 October.

Update: 29.08.2019

I should encourage everyone to read constitutional expert Vernon Bogdanor's excellent piece in the Guardian in which he outlines how parliament's failure led us to its prorogation.

Update: 26.09.2019

I fully accept Tuesday’s unanimous judgement of all 11 Justices of the Supreme Court that the decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful and will, of course, do whatever is necessary to see that the Rule of Law is robustly upheld.

The relationship between the government, Parliament and the courts will not always be easy, but then neither are the issues for which they are responsible. As emotions run ever higher, I have found it painful watching the increasingly degrading scenes in Parliament, so much so that I could not bring myself to attend the House yesterday.

The reputational damage being done to Parliament by the vitriol too readily expressed on all sides of the House does not bear thinking about. One can only hope that the respect and civility that has for so long characterised our parliamentary proceedings is restored before it is too late.