Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past couple of days, you have probably noticed that some *serious* drama has been going down in the Supreme Court.
Namely, judges deciding whether it was lawful for Boris Johnson to shut down parliament ahead of the Brexit deadline.
Thursday marked the third and final day in court, where judges were hearing appeals from two cases – one in which High Court judges dismissed Gina Miller’s challenge to the prime minister’s prorogation and another in which judges in Scotland ruled the suspension “unlawful”. (So two *very* different rulings.)
Basically, the Supreme Court justices have been handed quite the muddle to sort through.
Didn’t feel like listening to hours and hours of arguments on the court’s live stream on the last day of the hearing? (Fair.) Never fear – here’s a rundown of the main bits.
While the hearing was about two specific cases, a number of interested parties were allowed to give interventions to the court. First up was Scotland’s top law officer Lord Advocate James Wolffe, who was representing the Scottish government – and he didn’t mess about.
He told the court that the suspension of parliament was taking place at a “time-critical period” when the government’s decisions are likely to have “momentous consequences”.
The court must subject Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament to a “rigorous and searching review”, Wolffe added.
Mike Fordham, the counsel general for Wales, then made a similar argument, suggesting prorogation undermined the principle of parliamentary sovereignty.
Later, Ronan Lavery QC gave an intervention on behalf of Raymond McCord, a victims’ campaigner for Northern Ireland. His 22-year-old son was murdered by the UVF in Belfast in 1997, but no-one has ever been convicted.
McCord’s own challenge to the legality of a no-deal Brexit at Belfast High Court failed.
On Thursday, his lawyer told the court that the EU was a “peace project” designed to “remove the significance of national identity”.
“The Good Friday Agreement itself was premised on continuing EU membership.”
He continued: “The rising tide of nationalism that we are witnessing is poisoning the harmony between the EU states, and it is directly affecting Northern Ireland’s ability to function.”
Last up was Lord Garnier, making an intervention on behalf of former Tory prime minister Sir John Major.
Presenting Major’s argument to the court, Garnier said there was no reason to prorogue parliament for five weeks, especially when “time is of the essence” over Brexit.
The PM was motivated to shut down parliament because he wanted to avoid scrutiny, he argued.
Summing Up – The Government’s Appeal
In the afternoon, after three long days of arguments and interventions, the lawyers representing both Gina Miller and the government were given the chance to sum up their cases for appeal.
First up was Lord Keen, the Advocate General for Scotland. Representing the government, Keen summed up its argument that prorogation is an issue for politicians – not the courts.
Suspending parliament is “a matter between the executive and parliament”, the lawyer said.
“Ultimately, what this court is being invited to do is to control the length of the prorogation of parliament as exercised under the prerogative,” he told the Supreme Court justices.
Campaigners trying to challenge the prime minister’s decision “are inviting the court into forbidden territory and into what is essentially a minefield, an ill-defined minefield,” Keen added.
Summing Up – Gina Miller’s Appeal
Finally, Lord Pannick – who was representing Gina Miller, whose High Court challenge to Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament failed earlier this month – summed up the businesswoman’s appeal.
“The central issue is why was it appropriate to prorogue for five weeks, longer – as the court knows – than on any occasion in the past 40 years?” Pannick asked the court, calling for parliament to be recalled “as soon as possible”.
“The remedy we seek from the court is a declaration that the prime minister’s advice to Her Majesty was unlawful, and we would respectfully ask the court, if it is in our favour, to make such a declaration as soon as possible... because time is of the essence.”
Throughout the hearing, Miller’s team have argued that the prime minister shut down parliament in order to avoid scrutiny over Brexit.
When Will We Get The Result?
As you might have guessed, whatever the judges decide is going to be a *big deal*.
As such, the Supreme Court justices have given themselves a few days to deliberate.
“None of this is easy,” said Lady Hale, president of the court. But the judges hope to be able to publish their decision “early next week”.