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Supreme Court: Government ‘acted in good faith’ over suspension, says Cox

Media caption‘This Parliament is a disgrace’

The government acted in “good faith” when it suspended Parliament, according to its chief legal adviser.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox told MPs he was “disappointed” at the landmark ruling by the Supreme Court that the suspension was unlawful, but respected the judgement.

He then launched a blistering attack on MPs for being “too cowardly” to hold an election, calling them a “disgrace”.

MPs returned to work on Wednesday morning as a result of the ruling.

The SNP’s Joanna Cherry urged Mr Cox to publish the legal advice he gave the government ahead of the suspension.

Ms Cherry – who was one of the lawyers who led the court challenge against the suspension or “prorogation” – said Mr Cox was being “offered up as a fall guy for the government’s plans”.

Releasing his advice “would help him avoid being a scapegoat for a plan dreamed up by the prime minister and his advisers”, she told the Commons.

The attorney general said the government believed its approach had been “both lawful and constitutional”, but he would “consider over the coming days whether the public interest may require a greater disclosure” of his advice.

Boris Johnson, who has flown back from a UN summit in New York to address MPs, has said he “profoundly disagrees” with the decision of the Supreme Court, but he would respect it.

He is due to give a statement to the Commons later, along with one from the Leader of the House, Jacob Rees-Mogg.

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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has called for Mr Johnson to resign, and said the court’s decision had left the PM “badly wanting”.

The prime minister could be removed via a vote of no confidence – potentially triggering a general election – but Mr Corbyn said he would not seek one until it was “very clear” Mr Johnson would seek an extension to Brexit to prevent no deal and the EU had agreed to it.

The ruling

The Supreme Court ruled it was impossible to conclude there had been any reason – “let alone a good reason” – to advise the Queen to prorogue Parliament for five weeks in the run-up to the Brexit deadline of 31 October.

Supreme Court president Lady Hale emphasised, though, that the case was “not about when and on what terms” the UK left the EU.

The PM insisted the suspension of Parliament had been necessary in order for him to bring forward a Queen’s Speech on 14 October outlining his government’s policies.

But the court found that the effect of such a move stopped MPs from scrutinising the government.

Mr Johnson has said Brexit will happen with or without a deal on 31 October.

But MPs passed a law before Parliament was suspended to force the PM to ask for an extension from the EU if a deal – or approval for no deal – is voted for by MPs by 19 October.

MPs called for Mr Cox to distance himself from reported comments by Mr Rees-Mogg, who is said to have referred to the court’s actions as a “constitutional coup”.

The attorney general said things were sometimes said “in the heat of the rhetorical and poetic licence”, but added: “We are proud we have a country capable of giving independent judgements of this kind.

“With the judgements we can be robustly critical, with the motives we cannot.”

But exchanges in the Commons became more heated when Mr Cox hit out at critics from the opposition benches for criticising the government, but not being willing to hold an election.

“This Parliament is a dead Parliament,” he said. “It should no longer sit. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches.

“This is a disgrace. They could vote no confidence [in the government] at any time but they are too cowardly.”

Election timing

MPs twice refused to back the prime minister’s call for an election earlier this month – he needs the support of two-thirds of the House to hold one under the Fixed Terms Parliament Act.

Opposition parties say they want to wait until after the PM has asked for a Brexit extension from the EU to ensure it does not “crash out” without a deal at the end of October.

But Mr Cox said the government would follow the law MPs pushed through before the suspension and accused them of trying to stop the UK leaving.

“[Parliament] should have the courage to face the electorate, but it won’t because so many of them are really all about preventing us leaving the European Union,” he said.

“But the time is coming when even these turkeys wont be able to prevent Christmas.”

Supreme Court: Government ‘acted in good faith’ over suspension, says Cox}

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