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Boris Johnson is not ruling out a further suspension of Parliament if the Supreme Court doesn’t block it when it announces its decision next week. But the prime minister’s team also said it will comply with what the judges decide, potentially restricting his options as he prepares for another showdown with lawmakers over Brexit.
Johnson insists securing a divorce deal with the European Union is the best way out of the impasse, but officials are increasingly pessimistic about the chances of a breakthrough ahead of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said there’s “growing frustration” within the EU toward the U.K. and that a “significant gap” remains between two sides.
Third and final day of Supreme Court hearings into the suspension of Parliament has finishedA ruling is expected early next weekGovernment said it must know the court’s decision before declaring what it will do if it losesFormer premier John Major told the court it would be “naive” to believe Johnson on his reasons for suspending ParliamentBritain has given EU negotiators some ideas in writing on how to reach a deal, but this does not yet constitute a formal blueprint
Court Will Aim to Rule Early Next Week (3:15 p.m.)
The Supreme Court will aim to announce its ruling on Boris Johnson’s suspension of Parliament “early next week,” President Brenda Hale said at the close of three days of hearings.
“None of this is easy,” she said. “We will have to decide what the answer is and we will have to decide one way or the other what the consequences are.”
Pannick Asks For Parliament to be Recalled (2:55 p.m.)
David Pannick, the attorney for Gina Miller, asked the court to “encourage” the prime minister to recall Parliament next week if the judges find against him.
“We would expect in the light of a declaration in our favor that the prime minister will ensure that Parliament resumes as soon as possible next week,” Pannick said. “Let Parliament sort out the problem.”
He asked the court to give its decision as quickly as possible and provide its reasons later. “This court will produce this answer as soon as it humanly can,” Court President Brenda Hale replied.
U.K. and Irish Finance Ministers Meet (2:30 p.m.)
U.K. Chancellor Sajid Javid and his Irish counterpart Paschal Donohoe will “exchange perspectives” on Brexit at a meeting in Dublin today.
In a joint statement, Donohoe said their third meeting in eight weeks would help both sides understand each others views on the U.K.’s split from the EU.
For his part, Javid reiterated that the U.K. will leave the EU on Oct. 31 while noting that Ireland “is an essential partner” for the U.K.
Government Lays Out Options If It Loses (1 p.m.)
In its submission to the court, the government laid out its potential options in the event judges find its decision to suspend Parliament unlawful. The scenarios depend on the wording of the ruling, it said.
Scenario 1: The court could rule against the government, but its reasoning might still allow it to keep Parliament suspendedScenario 2: The court could require Johnson to advise the Queen to recall Parliament earlier than planned — it’s currently scheduled to resume on Oct. 14. A Queen’s speech laying out the government’s agenda would still take place before any other businessScenario 3: A ruling quashing the suspension could mean Parliament was never actually prorogued and remains in session — an argument the Scottish claimants have made. But it’s this outcome that could provoke the most controversial response from the government; Johnson’s lawyer didn’t rule out a second suspension it it happens
Major’s Lawyers Highlight Risks (12:45 p.m.)
Lawyers for former Prime Minister John Major said a ruling in favor of Boris Johnson’s government would be the thin end of the wedge.
It risks creating a scenario where the prime minister could suspend Parliament whenever he wanted — including when faced with a no-confidence vote in the legislature, the lawyers said, or if politicians tried to pass a law which limited the government’s power to suspend.
Barnier to Meet ‘MPs For A Deal’ Group (12:30 p.m.)
EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier will meet Labour MPs Stephen Kinnock and Caroline Flint in Brussels on Thursday, after he asked to discuss their cross-party campaign to get a Brexit deal through Parliament.
“Despite the political rhetoric, much of the withdrawal agreement is not contentious, it was the lack of clarity over the future relationship which was the sticking point,” Kinnock said in a statement. Theresa May’s deal with the EU “provides a solid and realistic basis on which to build in order to reach a compromise that can pass in the Commons and avert a catastrophic no-deal crash-out.”
The politicians, who lead the “MPs for a Deal” group in Parliament, say they want the U.K. to leave with a divorce agreement and are trying to help broker one that can pass through the House of Commons.
BOE Warns of ‘Entrenched Uncertainty’ on Brexit (12:20 p.m.)
The Bank of England kept interest rates unchanged, warning that “political events could lead to a further period of entrenched uncertainty” as the impasse over Brexit continues.
U.K. Sends EU Written ‘Ideas’ (12:10 p.m.)
The U.K. and EU confirmed Thursday that the British government has now submitted some ideas in written form about how it sees changes to the Brexit deal, which has been one of the bloc’s key requests.
However, it’s clear that the texts, which a spokesman described as “non-papers” — EU jargon for an informal discussion document — aren’t the U.K.’s full proposals, which will come at a later of date.
“We have now shared in written form a series of confidential technical non-papers which reflect the ideas the U.K. has been putting forward,” the spokesman said. “We will table formal written solutions when we are ready, not according to an artificial deadline, and when the EU is clear that it will engage constructively on them as a replacement for the backstop.”
The “artificial deadline” appears to refer to the idea put forward by Finland, that the U.K. should submit written proposals by the end of September.
Government Doesn’t Rule Out Another Suspension (12 p.m.)
The government told the Supreme Court that it would still consider suspending Parliament a second time — even if it loses the current case.
“Depending on the court’s reasoning it would still either be open or not open to the prime minister to consider a further prorogation,” according to the document, which was tweeted by opposition lawyer Jolyon Maugham.
This is a question that has been repeatedly put to government lawyers over the last two days. The government also said that it can’t reveal its position until the court has given a full ruling.
Lawyer Told Off for Politicizing Case (11:50 a.m.)
Ahead of former Prime Minister John Major’s intervention, the judges have been hearing from lawyers from around the U.K.
Ronan Lavery, representing Raymond McCord, whose son was killed in political violence that dogged Northern Ireland for decades, was told off by the judges for what they called an attempt to politicize the hearing — something the judges have been at pains to avoid.
“Don’t abuse our politeness and don’t abuse Lady Hale’s patience,” Judge Nicholas Wilson said to Lavery. Wilson said he was “worried” that people watching the case online may mistakenly think the case was about Brexit.
Confusion Over Government’s Court Plan (11 a.m.)
There’s significant confusion over whether the government will actually publish what it plans to do if it loses the Supreme Court case on Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament.
While staff in the Supreme Court said the document would be published by the attorney general, his office said that wasn’t the case. And government lawyers told reporters the document would be published “at some point this morning” by the Supreme Court itself. Meanwhile, all parties to the case have seen the document filed to the court.
Anti-Brexit Lib Dems Leapfrog Labour in Poll (10:45 a.m.)
The Liberal Democrats leapfrogged the main opposition Labour Party in a poll of voting intention published late Wednesday.
The party, which held its conference this week, has agreed to revoke Article 50 — blocking Brexit — if it wins the next election. While that may account for some of the rise, a higher media profile as a result of television coverage of the conferences often gives parties a boost in the polls.
The YouGov survey for the Times newspaper saw Boris Johnson’s Conservatives unchanged on 32% of the vote, the Liberal Democrats on 23% — up four points on the week before — and Labour down two points on 21%.
Coveney: ‘Growing Frustration’ in EU at U.K. (10:30 a.m.)
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told reporters in Dublin there’s “growing frustration” within the European Union over the U.K.’s failure to bring forward concrete proposals to replace the contentious backstop, and that a “significant gap” remains between the two sides.
British ideas to replace the backstop, the fallback measure to keep the Irish border free of checks after Brexit, lack credibility so far, Coveney said.
Coveney also commented on his meeting with the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, calling the discussions with leader Arlene Foster “positive” but stressing there was no breakthrough. Foster said late Wednesday (see Earlier) the DUP’s 10 lawmakers in the House of Commons are prepared to be “flexible” in finding a solution to the impasse over the Irish border.
‘Naive’ to Believe Johnson: Ex-PM Major Tells Court (10 a.m.)
The third and final day of Supreme Court hearings into Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament gets under way shortly, with Thursday’s highlight expected to be — in political terms — the extraordinary spectacle of a former prime minister arguing that the incumbent can’t be trusted.
Lawyers for former Conservative Prime Minister John Major will say the court shouldn’t believe Johnson’s public comments on his reasons for proroguing Parliament, even going so far as to say the court would be “naive” to do so. Johnson, who leads the same party, has long argued that he suspended Parliament to kick off a new domestic agenda, while his legal opponents say he did it to stymie the legislature ahead of Brexit.
In documents prepared for trial, Major’s lawyer, Edward Garnier, focused on the lack of a government witness statement to support its position — something the judges have also questioned.
“The court is under no obligation to approach this case on the artificially naive basis that the handful of disclosed documents, the contents of which nobody has been prepared to verify with a statement of truth, should nevertheless be assumed to be entirely accurate and complete,” he wrote.
Barclay: Both Sides Must Be Flexible (9 a.m.)
In a speech to business leaders in Spain, Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the U.K. wants to secure a divorce deal with the European Union, but warned that both sides must accept a degree of risk to achieve one. The backstop must be dropped from any agreement, he said, urging the European Commission to be “creative and flexible.”
“A rigid approach now at this point is no way to progress a deal and the responsibility sits with both sides to find a solution,” Barclay said, adding that he will meet the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier for talks on Friday.
Securing a Brexit deal is also “the best way” for the U.K. government to navigate the Brexit impasse in the British Parliament, Barclay said. Boris Johnson’s administration will always abide by the law, he said, referring to legislation passed in Parliament requiring the government to seek a Brexit extension if it can’t get a deal next month. But he also warned that the law “does not close the door” to a no-deal divorce.
“The U.K. wants a deal. But time is short — there are just 42 days before we leave. But it is sufficient for a deal,” Barclay said. “But any deal must acknowledge and reflect the political reality in the United Kingdom. Simply that means that the backstop has to go.”
Barclay also said the U.K. will abide by the decision of the Supreme Court, which concludes three days of hearings in London on Thursday over whether Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament for five weeks was lawful.
Foster Says DUP Ready to Help Break Impasse (Earlier)
Arlene Foster, leader of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, said its 10 lawmakers in the House of Commons are prepared to be “flexible” in finding a solution to the impasse over the Irish border.
“We are prepared to be flexible and look at Northern Ireland specific solutions achieved with the support and consent of the representatives of the people of Northern Ireland,” Foster said in a speech in Dublin on Wednesday evening.
But she told reporters it would be “madness” to erect barriers between Northern Ireland and Great Britain to achieve a deal, and said the DUP is continuing to talk with the British government about the best way forward.
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–With assistance from Dara Doyle, Thomas Penny, Franz Wild, Christopher Elser, Anthony Aarons, Charles Penty, Kitty Donaldson, David Goodman, Jill Ward and Peter Flanagan.
To contact the reporters on this story: Jeremy Hodges in London at firstname.lastname@example.org;Jonathan Browning in London at email@example.com;Ian Wishart in Brussels at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Tim Ross at email@example.com, Stuart Biggs, Thomas Penny
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