Meet the new boss

Did you know that Britain even had a “Supreme Court”? I didn’t:

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. […]

At issue was whether Mr. Johnson, in suspending Parliament for five weeks in the middle of a dispute over Britain’s departure from the European Union, had stymied the ability of lawmakers to have a say in that process. The court, in upholding a previous ruling by a Scottish high court, judged that he had.

Not only did the court declare 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.” The request, said the court’s president, Baroness Brenda Hale, might as well have been a “blank sheet of paper.”

Stephen Tierney, a professor of constitutional theory at Edinburgh University, said it was “astonishing” that the court had ruled decisively that it “can review something as fundamental as that, done by Her Majesty, as unlawful.”

Amusingly, it looks like the British court is mimicking its nominal counterpart in the US:

The Supreme Court routinely exercises judicial review by actively interpreting the American Constitution.

Britain, however, relies on a partly unwritten set of traditions and conventions that have treated a sovereign Parliament as the supreme power in the land. Once the courts venture into the political sphere and begin to pass judgment on Parliament’s actions, some legal analysts say, there is no going back.

This will end well.

2 thoughts on “Meet the new boss

  1. Interesting, I also did not know that Britain had a Supreme Court. I thought The High Court was the highest court. Apparently, though, the Supreme Court must be evoked in this instance, because the matter is constitutional.

    • It’s an absurdity. Britain seems to have navigated constitutional crises just fine before 2009, when the Supreme Court was created.

      Anyway, Britain’s most powerful court is in Luxembourg (the European Court of Justice).

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