John Major enters battle to block suspension of parliament — latest news


The current state of play

Just logging on in New York? Grabbing lunch in London or Paris? Here’s a brief rundown of where things stand at the moment:

-A Scottish court has rejected an attempt by a cross-party group of parliamentarians who were seeking an emergency injunction to halt Boris Johnson’s suspending of parliament. However, a hearing that was planned for next Friday has been pushed up to Tuesday.

-A court in Northern Ireland has adjourned a similar request to next Friday.

-John Major, a former Conservative prime minister, has jumped into the fray, saying he’ll join a third legal attempt to stop Mr Johnson’s proroguing of parliament.

And here’s a look at a few FT stories that are worth your while:

Tory rebels prepare for showdown with Boris Johnson

Doubts cast on legal challenges to suspending Parliament

Opinion: Tories cackling at Boris Johnson’s Brexit wheeze should beware

Belfast legal bid to block suspension of parliament adjourned to next Friday

The case before Belfast’s High Court seeking an emergency injunction to stop the proroguing of parliament will not be heard until next Friday, Reuters has reported.

Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan has set September 6 as the date for presentation of legal arguments on the interim injunction sought by victims rights campaigner Raymond McCord.

The action had requested that the court make essentially the same order as that refused by the Scottish Court of Session this morning.

A more substantive case launched by Mr McCord is set to be heard on September 16 against any withdrawal from the EU without a divorce deal.

Ex-PM Brown eyes another Brexit extension

Gordon Brown, former UK prime minister, said on Friday that he believed EU members would be willing to extend the October 31 deadline for Brexit if requested, the FT’s Scotland correspondent, Mure Dickie, reports.

“That’s what I believe they should do and I believe they will do,” Mr Brown told journalists in Edinburgh. “I’ve been talking to people and I believe that to be the case”.

Mr Brown suggested that the offer might be made at meetings of the European Commission next week.

In a statement, the former prime minister said Boris Johnson should not be able to say that the October 31 deadline was forced on him and that an offer to extend would “pull the rug from under the prime minister’s claim that it is Europe that is inflexible.”

Meanwhile in Calais, France to stage Brexit dress rehearsal

Gérald Darmanin, France’s public accounts minister, is to meet Michael Gove on Friday afternoon as he announces a monthlong “dress rehearsal” for truck transit in Calais two months ahead of the UK’s departure date from the EU.

“For a month, we’re going to pretend there was Brexit, and for a lot of companies, we’re going to have a sort of dress rehearsal to be ready by the end of October,” Mr Darmanin told RTL radio, according to France 24.

We have recruited 700 additional customs officers and we have done, which is quite technologically innovative, a smart border

What’s ahead for sterling?

As we have been reporting over the past few days, bets on volatility in the pound have shot up since the government’s decision to suspend parliament.

Expectations for volatility over the next month have recorded their biggest monthly rise in August since the build up to the Brexit vote three years ago, trades in the options market show.

Bets on volatility over the next three months – taking us through the October 31 Brexit date – have spiked to their highest levels of the year.

The pound has stabilised around 0.8 per cent lower against the US dollar since the news of proroguing broke on Wednesday.

Opinion: Tories cackling at Boris Johnson’s Brexit wheeze should beware

Here’s the latest column from Robert Shrimsley, the FT’s editorial director:

Sometimes it is the cleverest wheezes that come back to haunt you. Boris Johnson’s daring move to suspend the UK parliament, to limit the time for opponents to frustrate his Brexit strategy, has delighted his supporters. Yet even if it proves decisive, Conservatives may still come to rue his contentious but legal gambit.

Among Mr Johnson’s allies there are those — his chief strategist Dominic Cummings, for example — who take a revolutionary approach to politics, yearning to refashion the old institutions of state. Rather more of Team Johnson, though, including the prime minister himself, believe in those institutions. Once the fight is won, they imagine normal political service will resume. Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Leader of the House, insists that the British constitution “can bend to a passing storm”. This may be a fond hope. Parliamentary democracy has been irrevocably altered by the Brexit battle.

Read the full column.

Brussels stresses need for ‘concrete proposals’

A spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed that Brussels will have twice weekly meetings with UK Brexit negotiator David Frost, but underlined that Britain needs to make credible proposals if discussions are to advance, writes Jim Brunsden in Brussels.

“We have stated our willingness to work 24/7,” said a spokeswoman. “Our position remains that we will first need to see concrete proposals from the UK government that are compatible with the withdrawal agreement.”

“Our teams will pursue discussions next week,” the spokeswoman said. “The timeline will obviously depend on when the UK government will provide the concrete proposals.“

“David Frost has asked to see the Commission twice a week. We have always said from our side that the doors remain open.”

Asked what the EU would consider to be a “concrete proposal”, the commission spokeswoman said: “I would expect that some wording is actually put forward, whether this is digital or on paper I think we can be flexible about that.”

“We are talking about notably concrete proposals that could be alternatives to the backstop, that need to be fully compatible with the withdrawal agreement.”

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Farage bemoans ‘endless remainer sabotage’

Nigel Farage, arch-Brexiteer and leader of the Brexit party, has weighed in on today’s proceedings, dismissing what he described as “endless remainer sabotage”.

Mr Farage was responding to calls from petitioners before Scotland’s Court of Session for Boris Johnson to provide an affidavit – a sworn statement – about why he is suspending parliament.

“We really do need to be free,” he tweeted.

Petitioners before Scottish court can ‘take some comfort’ from ruling

An Edinburgh-based legal expert says Joanna Cherry and her fellow petitioners “may take some comfort” from today’s ruling by Scotland’s Court of Session.

Lord Doherty, the presiding judge, this morning rejected an emergency application for a temporary injunction against the proroguing of parliament but moved forward a full hearing on the matter to next Tuesday.

Jim Cormack QC, a litigation partner at Pinsent Masons, said Lord Doherty’s decision not to grant an interim order had “focused on the practicalities” rather than “the substantive strengths and weaknesses of the arguments”.

“Refusing an interim interdict on the basis that a full hearing can be brought forward is quite common.

Given the nature and potential effects of the orders the court is being asked to grant, it is understandable why the court prefers to bring forward a full hearing in this case.

The petitioners may take some comfort from the fact that in refusing interim orders, the judge has focused on the practicalities rather than delving too far at this stage into the substantive strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.

That is now a matter which will come before the court on Tuesday.”

Scottish court petitioners seek Johnson affidavit

Petitioners in the Scottish court are calling for Boris Johnson to provide an affidavit – a sworn statement – about why he is suspending parliament. The move could expose the prime minister to cross examination, write Mure Dickie and Edwin Esosa.

Is this all an enormous red herring?

There have been fast moving developments today on three separate legal attempts in the courts to try to stop the government suspending parliament. But do the cases stand a chance?

The FT’s Jane Croft wrote yesterday that lawyers think the cases face an uphill struggle, including the tight timetable and whether the proroguing issue is open to legal challenge at all.

“This is a very unusual situation and I think they face an uphill challenge,” said David Mundy, partner at law firm BDB Pitmans.

Major’s warning

Former prime minister John Major, who has announced he will join the legal battle against suspending parliament, previously warned that the action would leave the UK “heading in a very dangerous territory.”

Speaking in June at Chatham House, Sir John said it would be “fundamentally unconstitutional.”

I cannot imagine Mr Disraeli, Mr Gladstone, Mr Churchill or Mrs Thatcher – even in their most difficult moments – saying let us put parliament aside while I carry through this difficult policy that a part of my party disagrees with.

Sir John said that given that leading Brexit-backers argued that leaving the EU would restore parliament’s sovereignty, it was “hypocrisy on a gold-plated standard.”

All eyes on Belfast

With a full hearing now due before Scotland’s Court of Session next Tuesday and Gina Miller and John Major’s case set to be heard next Thursday, attention now turns to the third case, which is before Belfast’s High Court today.

The court there is hearing an application by barristers for Raymond McCord to ask for an emergency injunction to stop proroguing of Parliament, writes Jane Croft.

Mr McCord is essentially asking the Belfast court to make the same order as the Scottish court refused to make today for Joanna Cherry et al.

Gina Miller: Court hearing will be heard on Thursday

SNP’s Cherry: court will hear full arguments next week

Joanna Cherry, an SNP MP who is one of the parliamentarians who filed the judicial review, said the court will hear full arguments next week. She said there will be a full hearing at 10am on Tuesday.

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EmoticonScottish court rejects application for temporary injunction of suspension of parliament

An application before the Court of Session in Edinburgh for a temporary injunction of Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament has been rejected.

Lord Doherty, the presiding judge, declined the request, made by a group of more than 70 MPs and peers.

However, he said a substantive hearing on the matter should be brought forward from next Friday to Tuesday or Wednesday.

EmoticonEx-PM John Major applies to join legal battle to block suspension of parliament

John Major, the former Conservative prime minister, is set to join Gina Miller’s case seeking a judicial review of Boris Johnson’s move to prorogue parliament.

Sir John – who served as prime minister from 1990 to 1997 – said in July he would seek a judicial review “to prevent parliament being bypassed”.

In a statement today he said rather than launching a separate application, he would apply to “intervene” on Ms Miller’s claim, bringing to bear his experience as an ex-prime minister and his many years in government.

I promised that, if the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament in order to prevent Members from opposing his Brexit plans, I would seek judicial review of his action.

In view of the imminence of the prorogation – and to avoid duplication of effort, and taking up the Court’s time through repetition – I intend to seek the Court’s permission to intervene in the claim already initiated by Gina Miller, rather than to commence separate proceedings.

If granted permission to intervene, I intend to seek to assist the Court from the perspective of having served in Government as a Minister and Prime Minister, and also in Parliament for many years as a Member of the House of Commons.

UK says it has put forward alternatives to backstop

Grant Shapps said the British government has been putting forward alternatives to the Northern Ireland backstop to the EU.

The transport secretary was responding to earlier comments from Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney, who said “nothing credible has come from the British government.”

Mr Shapps told Sky:

We have put forward ideas about trusted trader schemes, using technology that is already available to do this. It is a cover when they keep saying you are not putting forward ideas, we are putting forward ideas.

The idea of using the trusted trader scheme – a measure to cut down paperwork also known as “authorised economic operator” status – was one of the ideas floated earlier this year by Theresa May’s government as an alternative to the backstop. The FT looked at the plausibility of this idea back in February, and found industry experts were not optimistic it could solve the Irish border problem.

Coveney: No ‘credible’ proposals from UK government

Ireland insisted on Friday that the British government has not proposed any credible alternative to the backstop, writes Arthur Beesley in Dublin.

Simon Coveney, deputy Irish premier, said neither Dublin nor the EU would accept UK promise to do its best to solve the border problem “but not explain how”.

The UK would have to propose viable measures to solve the Irish border problem if it wants to scrap backstop, the clause in Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement to avoid a hard border in Ireland. He added that any new deal must be consistent with the Brexit treaty and must stand up to scrutiny.

“We all want to get a deal but at the moment nothing credible has come from the British government in the context of an alternative to the backstop — and if that changes, great,” Mr Coveney told reporters in Helsinki where European foreign ministers were meeting.

“We’ll look at it in Dublin. But more importantly it can be the basis of a discussion in Brussels. But it’s got to be credible, it can’t simply be this notion that, look, we must have the backstop removed and we’ll solve this problem in the future negotiation without any credible way of doing that. That’s not going to fly and I think it’s important that we’re all honest about that.”

Shapps: Parliament will get chance to debate Brexit

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has done the media round this morning in Westminster, repeating the government’s line that there is nothing unusual about suspending parliament.

He said that the government’s plan was “perfectly normal, constitutional and the right thing to do,” as it would pave the way for a new Queen’s Speech and fresh domestic agenda.

“This idea that parliament won’t get the chance to debate Brexit again is completely untrue,” he told Sky News, adding there would be “nothing new to discuss” until the October European summit.

See you in court

Campaigners have launched three separate legal challenges as they bid to block Boris Johnson’s move to suspend parliament. Here is a rundown of the cases:

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1. Edinburgh

A Scottish court is set to rule this morning on whether to grant an emergency injunction to halt the shutdown ahead of a full hearing next week.

The case was brought by more than 70 MPs and peers, including Joanna Cherry of the SNP.

A decision is expected from Lord Doherty, who heard four hours of arguments from the two sides yesterday, at 10am today.

2. London

Gina Miller, a prominent anti-Brexit campaigner, has launched a High Court application for judicial review to block the proroguing of parliament.

Ms Miller will use the same legal team that won a high profile Supreme Court victory over the government in 2017 forcing it to hold a parliamentary vote on triggering Article 50.

In a Guardian op-ed yesterday, Ms Miller wrote: “Even against the desperate time constraints imposed upon us, I am hopeful that the courts will be able to check the omnipotent power Johnson wants for himself.”

3. Belfast

And a third legal challenge seeking an injunction to stop the proroguing of parliament was filed yesterday at the High Court in Belfast by victims rights campaigner Raymond McCord.

Mr McCord has argued that a no-deal Brexit is a breach of the Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.

Tory rebel Letwin calls for measures to force Brexit extension if deal cannot be reached

Sir Oliver Letwin, the former Conservative cabinet minister, has said he hopes parliament will pass measures by the end of next week that force Boris Johnson to seek an Article 50 extension if he cannot get a Brexit deal, reports James Blitz.

He told the BBC Today programme: “I hope parliament will take a series of actions in a proper orderly way that, by the end of the week, mean that Boris Johnson knows that, as prime minister, he has the backing of many, many of us to get a deal. But if he doesn’t get a deal, he’s going to have to seek an extension.”

However Sir Oliver said it was uncertain whether enough Conservative MPs would back such a proposal in the Commons.

“I believe that there probably is time (to get the measures passed this week)…Whether we can get the required majority is…of course, in the House of Commons, altogether another matter. It is a foolhardy person who predicts the number of MPs who will vote either way on an issue of this kind. And we’ll just have to see whether we can acquire a majority of the required kind.”

Sir Oliver rejected suggestions that any amendment ruling out no deal would undermine Mr Johnson’s negotiating hand with the EU.

“I’ve never believed this thesis that somehow a negotiated deal is going to arise by threatening that we will withdraw without a deal. If we withdraw without a deal, it will be inconvenient for the EU. It will be massively risky for our country. It’s not a threat. It’s not a negotiating ploy. The negotiation has to be by grown up to grown up.”

UK pound pummelled over past six months

Sterling has taken a hit over the past six months with an 8 per cent dive against the dollar, with July being the worst affected month. It has fallen about 5 per cent versus the euro. The month of August has shown little change.

At its six-monthly peak in March, the pound bought $1.3383; today £1 will buy you around $1.2162.

If you are comparing your summer holiday in France and Italy this year with 2018, £1 bought you about €1.136 at the beginning of July last year, compared with about €1.116 this year. Should you leave it to the last minute to get your euros, today according to MoneyCorp and Travelex online exchange rates it will cost you £102.02 to buy €110 at London Heathrow and Stansted airports.

Sterling down for first week in three

The UK pound is poised to snap a two-week winning streak amid a jolt of no-deal Brexit worries.

Boris Johnson’s decision to move for a suspension of parliament has been a major focus among analysts, who worry MPs now have a slimmer ability to stop a potentially damaging exit of the UK from the EU with no divorce deal in place.

The pound is down about 0.9 per cent this week against the dollar, currently trading at $1.2176.

Hans Redeker, Morgan Stanley analyst, sees further falls ahead:

The pound is expected to come under renewed selling pressure as the suspension of parliament is widely seen as increasing the risk of a no-deal Brexit.

Sterling is likely to break the $1.2060/$1.2015 support, opening potential to $1.15 which we view as providing a strategic buying opportunity.

Adding to the overall sense of angst, JPMorgan economists said on Thursday that they now see a greater than one-in-three chance of a no-deal Brexit.

And we’re back…

Welcome back to the FT’s Westminster blog. We’ll be covering today’s Scottish court decision and other developments throughout the morning.

Have thoughts on what you’d like to read more about (or more general feedback)? Let us know in the comments section.



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