Boris Johnson has been accused of “abusing his power” like no other prime minister in the past 50 years during a Supreme Court battle over his decision to suspend Parliament.
The landmark case over the prorogation of Parliament heard that Mr Johnson was trying to “silence” MPs ahead of the Brexit deadline date at the end of October.
Mr Johnson was previously been warned by Speaker John Bercow he will be acting like a “bank robber” if he breaks the law over a no-deal Brexit.
Lawyers for businesswoman Gina Miller, who is bringing a challenge over Mr Johnson’s advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament for five weeks, told the UK’s highest court that the prime minister’s decision was an “unlawful abuse of power”.
They also said he has failed to provide a witness statement or any other evidence to explain his decision to the court.
A crowd of about 40 protesters, holding signs saying “Defend democracy”, “Reopen Parliament” and “They misled the Queen”, gathered outside the court ahead of the hearing.
It comes a day after Mr Johnson was ridiculed for failing to turn up to a planned press conference in Luxembourg because of loud protests.
At the weekend, the prime minister vowed that Britain will break free from the EU “like the Hulk”.
There was one protester outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday dressed as Mr Johnson as “The Incredible Sulk”.
Mrs Miller’s barrister, Lord Pannick QC, said no court had been asked to consider these issues because no prime minister “has abused his power in the manner in which we allege in at least the last 50 years”.
Lord Pannick told the Supreme Court in London: “The exceptional length of the prorogation in this case is strong evidence that the prime minister’s motive was to silence Parliament for that period because he sees Parliament as an obstacle to the furtherance of his political aims.”
Three days of appeals
Lord Pannick added that it was a “remarkable feature” of the proceedings that Mr Johnson has not provided a statement explaining why he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament for the “exceptionally long period”.
Eleven justices are hearing appeals over three days arising out of two separate challenges brought in England and Scotland over the legality of the prorogation – which resulted in different outcomes.
The High Court in London dismissed Mrs Miller’s case, finding that the length of the prorogation was “purely political” and not a matter for the courts.
In Edinburgh, the Court of Session concluded Mr Johnson’s decision was unlawful because it was “motivated by the improper purpose” of frustrating Parliament.
“Erred in law”
Lord Pannick argued that the High Court “erred in law” in the case of Mrs Miller – who previously brought a successful legal challenge over the triggering of the Article 50 process to start the Brexit countdown.
He submitted that the Court of Session reached the “correct” conclusion as to Mr Johnson’s motive for proroguing Parliament.
Lord Pannick said the appeal raises “fundamental questions of constitutional law”.
He accepted the prime minister does have the power to advise the Queen to prorogue Parliament, but argued the length of this suspension amounts to an abuse of power in the circumstances.
“Parliament will be silenced”
Lord Pannick added: “Parliament will be silenced for a substantial part of the period leading up to the deadline of October 31 when issues of grave national importance are being addressed (or not addressed) by the government.”
At the outset of the hearing, Supreme Court President Lady Hale emphasised that the case is only about whether the Prime Minister’s advice to the Queen was lawful.
She added: “It is important to emphasise that we are not concerned with the wider political issues which form the context for this legal issue.
“As will be apparent when we hear the legal arguments, the determination of this legal issue will not determine when and how the UK leaves the European Union.”
Mr Johnson advised the Queen on August 28 to prorogue Parliament for five weeks and it was suspended on September 9.
The Prime Minster says the five-week suspension is to allow the Government to set out a new legislative agenda in a Queen’s Speech when MPs return to Parliament on October 14.