Brexit: Boris Johnson may have to appear at Edinburgh court

30 August 2019, 14:17

Edinburgh Court

Boris Johnson could face cross-examination at Scotland's highest civil court to explain his reasons for suspending Parliament, according to a legal expert.

At the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Friday, opponents of the move made by the Prime Minister were denied an interim interdict to halt the prorogation of Parliament by judge Lord Doherty.

A full hearing has been scheduled at the court on Tuesday having been brought forward from next Friday after the judge ruled it would be "in the interest of justice that it proceeds sooner rather than later".

Nick McKerrell, a lecturer in law at Glasgow Caledonian University said it is possible a full interdict could still be granted to the petitioners.

"The Court of Session has refused a request for an interim interdict, which would have immediately lifted the royal order to suspend Parliament," he said.

"This is not the end of the matter, though, as Lord Doherty has ordered the full hearing to be brought forward until next week.

"This still could potentially decide to grant a full interdict.

"Essentially by not giving an interim interdict the court have not accepted that the Prorogation of Parliament Order has the immediate emergency status that means there needs to be an action right away."

Mr McKerrell added: "The hearing will take place next Tuesday and moving it earlier is significant in and of itself.

"But Lord Doherty did not give any guidance on how strong he thinks the legal arguments are for the suspension of Parliament to be lifted.

"Also another interesting development is the request that Boris Johnson issues a legal binding statement to the court (an affidavit) over his reasons to bring the suspension.

"This could mean he potentially could face cross-examination. This is not automatically granted though and it would be yet another extremely unusual process if the court agreed to that."

Jim Cormack QC, a partner at legal firm Pinsent Masons, said it is understandable the court preferred to bring the full hearing forward.

"Refusing an interim interdict on the basis that a full hearing can be brought forward is quite common," he said.

"Given the nature and potential effects of the orders the court is being asked to grant, it is very understandable why the court prefers to bring forward a full hearing in this case.

"The petitioners may take some comfort from the fact that in refusing interim orders, the judge has focused on the practicalities rather than delving too far at this stage into the substantive strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.

"That is now a matter which will come before the court on Tuesday."