On Wednesday morning, the Supreme Court unanimously declared that Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament was unlawful. To summarise, Lady Hale said: ‘The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.’
This harked back to the days of the Bill of Rights of 1689, and the assertion of Parliamentary sovereignty. But what does this all mean for the relationship between the government – which has no majority – and Parliament, and for the people?
One choice facing the Prime Minister is that he resigns. Such a humiliating defeat would in normal times lead to a resignation. There have been calls from opposition leaders that he does just that, with Jeremy Corbyn suggesting Johnson ‘should do the right thing and resign and accept his fate as the shortest ever PM.’
However, even before the ruling had been made, Johnson had insisted that he would not resign, and would instead get on with delivering Brexit, sticking to his pledge to deliver it ‘do or die.’
This could potentially lead to a show-down between Prime Minister Johnson and Parliament. There has been talk of a vote of no confidence in the government, but it is unclear whether the Labour Party are secure enough in their position to get the votes necessary to topple the government. Either way, Boris will likely remain a lame-duck Prime Minister, unable to achieve anything of note.
Parliament continues to be deadlocked between the remain alliance and the hard-Brexiteer government. Whilst Parliament has taken a stance against no-deal, they have also voted three times against a Brexit deal, and it is not just Remain politicians who have done this, but also the hard-line European Research Group who wish for a hard Brexit, something that they cannot now get thanks to the Benn Bill.
EU leaders have been insistent that they have no desire to reopen the Withdrawal Bill. But, it is becoming increasingly likely that there will never be a Brexit deal which receives cross-party support, leaving the Prime Minister between a rock and a hard place.
Parliament’s rejection of pleas for a general election has also made it difficult for the Prime Minister to prevent a no-deal Brexit, leaving him without a fresh mandate to deliver a Brexit deal that parliament might actually like.
Added to this is the fact that some British MEPs have pleaded with Jean Claude Juncker, a leading negotiator in the Brexit talks, not to strike a deal with Boris Johnson. There is a real sense that nobody in the political class actually wants Britain to leave the EU.
This leads me to my final point, this ruling by the Supreme Court suggests to me that the UK only has one proper option left. It must accept that the political class who instigated the Supreme Court proceedings and who sit in Parliament, and many who marched against Article 50s revocation, do not want Brexit to happen.
As this decision has shown, they will do anything they can to stop Brexit, they will use the courts, the Queen and whatever other means they can. They will deny a request for a General Election, they will write to EU negotiators to ask them to play hardball.
It is time the UK accepts that the 2016 referendum is considered an aberration by this set of voters and accepts that perhaps the time has come to go back into the EU and to accept the consequences. After all, how much more agony can the country take?