LONDON — A Scottish court dealt another blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans Wednesday, ruling that his decision to suspend Parliament less than two months before the U.K. is due to leave the European Union was an unlawful attempt to avoid democratic scrutiny.
The government immediately said it would appeal, as the political opposition demanded Johnson reverse the suspension and recall lawmakers to Parliament.
With Brexit due in 50 days, the court ruling deepened Britain’s political deadlock. Johnson insists the country must leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce deal to smooth the way. But many lawmakers fear a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating, and are determined to stop him.
Their case got a boost late Wednesday as the government gave in to a demand from lawmakers and published a document showing that a hard exit could lead to logjams for freight, shortages of some foods and medicines, major travel disruptions and possible rioting.
The document’s release was the day’s second setback for Johnson and followed the surprise judgment by Scotland’s highest civil court, which found that the government’s action suspending lawmakers was illegal “because it had the purpose of stymieing Parliament.”
Johnson argues that he shut down the legislature this week so that he can start afresh on his domestic agenda at a new session of Parliament next month. But the five-week suspension also gives him a respite from rebellious lawmakers as he plots his next move to break the political impasse over Brexit and lead Britain out of the EU by Oct. 31, “do or die.”
But a panel of three Court of Session judges in Edinburgh said “the only inference that could be drawn was that the U.K. government and the prime minister wished to restrict Parliament.”
One of the judges, Philip Brodie, said it appeared the suspension was intended “to allow the executive to pursue a policy of a no-deal Brexit without further parliamentary interference.”
The judges declared the suspension “null and of no effect,” but said Britain’s Supreme Court must make the final decision at a hearing starting Tuesday.
Johnson denied he was being anti-democratic.
“If opposition members of Parliament disagree with our approach, then it is always open to them to take up the offer that I’ve made twice now — twice! — that we should have an election,” he said in an online question-and-answer session. “There is nothing more democratic in this country than a general election.”
Opposition politicians, however, insisted that the government must recall Parliament. Lawmakers were sent home this week despite the objections of House of Commons Speaker John Bercow and opposition lawmakers, who held up signs in the chamber saying “Silenced.”