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Student News

Boris unlawfully shut Parliament – here’s what it could mean for students

It's official: Bojo's suspension of Parliament has been ruled unlawful. But what exactly does that mean, and how does it affect you?

boris johnson and houses of parliament

Credit: Nazar Gonchar, IR Stone – Shutterstock

Ahead of Brexit on 31 October, Prime Minister Boris Johnson had suspended (or prorogued) Parliament for five weeks. Today, this was unanimously ruled as unlawful by the Supreme Court, who consider the legality of the government's decisions which affect people living in the UK (i.e. today's case).

Because of this ruling, it's now expected that MPs will re-enter Parliament's House of Commons, but you won't be alone in wondering what on earth this major news means for UK students. Here, we'll go through how this could affect you.

Just when we thought Brexit couldn't get any more dramatic...

Why was Parliament's prorogation unlawful?

Boris Johnson

Credit: photocosmos1 – Shutterstock

Boris Johnson had said that he'd decided to suspend Parliament so he could outline his new policies for the government ahead of the Queen’s Speech on 14 October. The speech explains the government's plans for the coming year, and in this case, would serve as a guideline regarding its plans for Brexit.

But, in the hearing, the Supreme Court's president highlighted that it would usually take four to six days to prepare for a Queen's speech – not five weeks.

Lady Hale, president of the Supreme Court, said in the hearing:

The decision to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions without reasonable justification.

Ultimately, it was ruled that Boris was wrong to suggest to the Queen that she should suspend Parliament, as there wasn't a strong enough reason to do so.

As the court's ruled that the prorogation was unlawful, it's now deemed to have been a void decision, meaning MPs can return to the House of Commons.

This ruling follows a three-day hearing last week at the Supreme Court which featured appeals from the government and Gina Miller, a campaigner who has been involved in a previous legal case against the government over Brexit.

Outside the court today, Ms Miller said:

The Prime Minister must open the doors of Parliament tommorow. MPs must get back and be brave and bold in holding this unscrupulous government to account.

Boris Johnson's response

BBC Politics tweet

Credit: BBC Politics – Twitter

Boris Johnson disagrees with the ruling, but has confirmed that Parliament will reopen tomorrow.

He said in a BBC interview:

Obviously, this is a verdict that we will respect and we respect the judicial process.

I have to say, I strongly disagree with what the justices have found. I don't think it's right but we will go ahead and of course Parliament will come back.

I do think there's a strong case for getting on with a Queen's Speech anyway and we'll do that.

But I think the most important thing is we get on and deliver Brexit on 31 October. And clearly the claimants in this case are determined to try to frustrate that and to stop that.

What's next for Boris Johnson?

While it's still unclear what Boris' next steps will be, there are (not surprisingly) many calls for him to resign as Prime Minister.

Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter

Credit: Jeremy Corbyn – Twitter

In a conference speech shared on Twitter, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said in response to the news:

I invite Boris Johnson to consider his position and become the shortest-serving Prime Minister there's ever been.

So, obey the law, take No Deal off the table, and have an election to elect a government that respects democracy, that respects the rule of law and brings power back to the people, not usurps it in the way that Boris Johnson has done.

Jo Swinson on Twitter

Credit: Jo Swinson – Twitter

Jo Swinson, leader of the Lib Dems, also called for Boris to resign in an interview with Sky News:

This unequivocal, unanimous judgement from Supreme Court makes clear that Boris Johnson is not fit to be Prime Minister.

He has acted unlawfully in trying to silence Parliament, trying to silence the voices of the people as he does not want to be held to account. He does not want to have to answer questions about his disastrous Brexit policy.

And in doing so, he was prepared to mislead the Queen, and indeed to mislead the whole country.

He is not fit for office. He should resign.

Zamzam Ibrahim on Twitter

Credit: Zamzam Ibrahim – Twitter

And, Zamzam Ibrahim, president of NUS, said on Twitter that Boris' "position as PM is without question now untenable".

How could the news affect students?

students working in class

Credit: Pressmaster – Envato Elements

While it's not yet known what will happen next for certain, the biggest way that this news could affect you is if Boris Johnson resigns.

Earlier this month, we published the news that Boris Johnson's call for an early election on 15 October was intended to make it harder for students to vote, as many would not yet have registered to vote in their new uni hometowns.

At Save the Student, we were hugely concerned by this news – students, like everyone, should be encouraged to vote, not prevented. This, combined with the ruling that his prorogation of Parliament was unlawful, makes him a difficult Prime Minister for many people to trust or respect.

But, of course, it adds yet more uncertainty to Brexit. With the Brexit deadline approaching at the end of next month, a resignation from the PM would cause yet more confusion to the process of if, when, and how Britain will leave the EU.

One positive thing to come from today's news is that MPs can get back into Parliament and hopefully start making progress again.

Discussing today's news, and how it could affect students, Zamzam Ibrahim, NUS President, said:

This morning, Lady Hale called prorogation void and unlawful. This is an unprecedented, ground breaking ruling.

Now that we know our Prime Minister acted unlawfully, it is time for all our MPs to get back to work, and focus on stopping a no-deal Brexit. That also means a commitment to maintaining the benefits our education system enjoys today; Erasmus+ , Horizon 2020, and free movement.

A no-deal Brexit would be a disaster for students and young people across the UK. What we need now is more democracy, not less. They've tried to shut Parliament, they've tried to stop students voting, but here we are again, with this unlawful and immoral decision overturned, with a hope we can get our hard fought democratic rights back.

It's time to reopen Parliament.

Now more than ever, with the calls for Boris to resign, it's super important that you register to vote and make sure you're ready to have your say in future elections!

Did you know you can actually make money from general elections?

Laura Brown

WRITTEN BY Laura Brown

Laura Brown, Head of Editorial at Save the Student, is an award-winning writer with expertise in student money. She project manages influential national student surveys and has presented findings to MPs in Westminster. As an expert on student issues, Laura has been quoted by the BBC, the Guardian, Metro and more.
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