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News | Published September 25 2019

Attorney General: “This parliament is a dead parliament”

MPs have engaged in a tense showdown in the House of Commons on Wednesday over the government’s decision to prorogue parliament.

Parliament was recalled after the Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the decision to prorogue was unlawful.

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox said that he respected the Supreme Court’s decision when addressing the Commons, before fiercely criticising MPs by branding them “a disgrace” and “too cowardly” to face the electorate.

He also hinted that an election motion would “come before the House shortly” from the government.

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

He added: “This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit. It has no moral right to sit on these green benches", prompting a fierce response.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman said that Cox had “no shame” and called the Attorney General a “disgrace” for his remarks.

Former Conservative cabinet minister Amber Rudd called on Cox to “cease” his language which was "pitting parliament against the people”, saying that parliament simply “reflects the divisions in our country” and adding that its failure was being unable to “reach a compromise”.

The SNP MP for Edinburgh South West, Joanna Cherry, an influential figure in the successful legal challenge against prorogation, asked Cox to publish the legal advice he gave to prime minister Boris Johnson which outlined that the decision to prorogue was lawful.

Cherry feared that the Attorney General was being “offered up as a fall guy” for parliament’s suspension.

Cox outlined that the government had “acted in good faith” and believed that its decision was entirely “lawful and constitutional”.

He also said he would consider “whether the public interest may require a greater disclosure” of his legal advice to the government in response to Cherry’s statement.

Prime minister Boris Johnson is due to address the House of Commons on Wednesday having returned from the United Nations summit in New York. He had already told the press on Tuesday that he “profoundly disagrees” with the Supreme Court’s decision but vowed to respect it.

Leader of the Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, who will give his own statement to the House alongside the prime minister on Wednesday, called the Supreme Court’s move a “constitutional coup”, while opposition parties have called on Johnson to resign since the ruling.

Yet, despite calls for the prime minister's departure to come "in a timely manner", Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said he will not support a vote of no confidence to potentially remove Johnson from office.

Corbyn has previously said that he won’t back any motion which could trigger a general election until an extension to the October 31 Brexit deadline has been agreed.

However, MPs have already passed a law through Parliament earlier in September, dubbed the Benn bill, which prevents a no-deal Brexit in October by requiring the prime minister to seek an extension from the EU if a deal or endorsement for no-deal cannot be secured by October 19.

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The prime minister has since insisted that Brexit will go ahead on October 31 with or without an agreement with the bloc, although the Attorney General has said that there is “no question of this government not obeying the law” laid out by the Benn bill.

However, Cox did acknowledge that it remains ambiguous as to "precisely what obligations the law might require of the government” under the bill.


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Authored by

Scott Challinor
Business Editor
@theparlreview
September 25 2019

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