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'Parliament is Dead,' UK PM Boris Johnson's Lawyer Geoffrey Cox Says as Brexit Chaos Deepens

Britain faces an October 31 departure deadline, but after three years of political crisis it remains unclear when, if or on what terms the it will leave the bloc it joined in 1973.

Reuters

Updated:September 25, 2019, 10:30 PM IST
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'Parliament is Dead,' UK PM Boris Johnson's Lawyer Geoffrey Cox Says as Brexit Chaos Deepens
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson smiles before addressing the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly (AP)

London: Boris Johnson's attorney-general said the British parliament was "dead" in a defiant outburst after lawmakers were recalled following a Supreme Court ruling that the prime minister's suspension of the assembly was unlawful.

The comments by Geoffrey Cox, the first cabinet member to address the chamber since parliament resumed on Wednesday, prompted outrage among Johnson's opponents seeking to stop him taking Britain out of the EU without a deal.

Britain faces an October 31 departure deadline, but after three years of political crisis it remains unclear when, if or on what terms the it will leave the bloc it joined in 1973.

In one of the most humiliating rulings for a prime minister in recent British history, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday that Johnson acted illegally in advising Queen Elizabeth to suspend parliament and had undermined the fundamentals of democracy.

Johnson's response was defiance.

He rejected calls to resign, insisted that Brexit would take place on Oct. 31 and quipped that some in parliament were seeking to turn Brexit into torment - comparing himself to the Greek mythical figure Prometheus whose liver was repeatedly eaten by an eagle.

Ahead of Johnson's own appearance before lawmakers, Cox said parliament was a disgrace and the prime minister's opponents were cowards for avoiding an election and trying to block Brexit.

"This parliament is a dead parliament. It should no longer sit," Cox told the House of Commons. "This parliament should have the courage to face the electorate. But it won't."

"It won't because so many of them are really all about preventing us leaving the European Union at all costs," said Cox, the man who gave Johnson the legal advice on suspending parliament.

Some lawmakers shouted and jeered. Others booed. Under questioning, Cox, known for his resonant, booming voice, said the government would comply with a law forcing the prime minister to request a Brexit delay if no deal was struck.

Having lost his majority and a series of votes about Brexit in the House of Commons, Johnson had suspended the legislature for five weeks. But the country's top court the closure was void.

BREXIT CHAOS

Before the suspension, an alliance of opposition lawmakers backed by rebel members of Johnson's Conservative Party forced through a law requiring him to ask the EU to push back the deadline if no exit deal was agreed by Oct. 19.

"We simply cannot afford to wait until the 19th of October to see whether the prime minister will refuse to obey the law again," said Jo Swinson, leader of the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrats, adding that opponents did not trust Johnson to obey the legislation.

The leader of Britain's main opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said now was not the time for parliament to try to bring Johnson down because the priority was to rule out an EU exit without an agreement.

Under questioning, Attorney General Cox said that the government would soon move a motion calling for an election.

"Vote for the election motion that will be coming before the House shortly," Cox advised an opposition lawmaker who asked whether Johnson should resign.

Johnson's demands for an election have already been rejected twice.

Parliament remains deadlocked over Brexit, with Johnson intent on leading Britain out of the EU with or without an exit agreement while most lawmakers are determined to block a no-deal scenario, which they fear will cause huge economic disruption.

Johnson has repeatedly said he can strike an exit deal with the EU's 27 other members at an EU summit on Oct. 17-18.

However, EU negotiators say he has made no new proposals capable of breaking the deadlock over the issue of how to manage the border between Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, after Brexit.

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