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Brexit: MPs ask Scottish court to block Westminster shutdown

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A group of parliamentarians has asked Scotland’s top civil court to block Boris Johnson’s bid to suspend parliament next month.

The 75 pro-Remain politicians launched their legal bid at the Court of Session in Edinburgh last month.

A judge is due to hear the case 6 September – but the group is now seeking to speed up the legal process.

They filed a motion on Wednesday morning asking the court to grant an interim interdict in the case.

And they said they were seeking an emergency hearing that would “prevent this undemocratic action”.

If it is granted, the interdict would, in effect, prevent Mr Johnson from suspending parliament, similar to an injunction in the English and Welsh legal systems.

The legal move came after the prime minister announced he had asked the Queen to suspend Parliament on 10 September.

The suspension would come just days after MPs return to the Commons after the summer recess on 3 September.

Mr Johnson has said a Queen’s Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his “very exciting agenda”.

But it means MPs are unlikely to have time to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit happening on 31 October.

The legal challenge to the move was launched in the Scottish courts last month, and is being headed by SNP MP Joanna Cherry and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, aided by Jo Maugham of the Good Law Project.

Mr Maugham tweeted that they had “filed a motion asking the Court of Session to suspend the Prime Minister’s request that Parliament be suspended”.

Ms Cherry had earlier told the BBC that Mr Johnson’s announcement was a “constitutional outrage and profoundly undemocratic”.

She said: “I have been on a conference call this morning with my legal team to see if we can speed up the hearing that is fixed for 6 September and get this issue before the court speedily so the court can determine whether what Boris Johnson is up to is lawful or not.”

Ms Cherry said it was now “more important than ever” that MPs put party politics aside and focus on the time that is available to them next week to try to prevent Mr Johnson from “subverting democracy”.

And she accused Mr Johnson of attempting to find a way of getting around the fact that the majority of MPs at Westminster are opposed to leaving the EU without a deal.

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Mr Johnson insists the suspension of parliament is not aimed at forcing through a no-deal Brexit

Ms Cherry, who is a QC, also said the prime minister’s move would “put to the forefront of our minds in Scotland how much longer we are prepared to tolerate this”.

She added: “If Boris Johnson can close down the Westminster parliament on a whim then he may well try and close down the Holyrood parliament.”

The legal team taking the action on behalf of the parliamentarians has had previous success, when it established that the UK had the power to revoke Article 50 – the mechanism which started the Brexit process.

Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve described Mr Johnson’s move as “an outrageous act” and predicted it could lead to a vote of no confidence that would bring down the government.

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said it was a “dangerous and unacceptable course of action”, while Labour deputy leader Tom Watson tweeted that the move was an “utterly scandalous affront to our democracy”.

But the prime minister said it was “completely untrue” to suggest the suspension was motivated by a desire to force through no deal.

He said he did not want to wait until after Brexit “before getting on with our plans to take this country forward”, and insisted there would still be “ample time” for MPs to debate the UK’s departure.

Mr Johnson added: “We need new legislation. We’ve got to be bringing forward new and important bills and that’s why we are going to have a Queen’s Speech”.

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