A legal challenge to stop Boris Johnson suspending Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit has been fast tracked by the Court of Session.
A cross-party group of 75 MPs, led by the SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC, alleges it would be illegal and unconstitutional for the prime minister to suspend the Commons to prevent MPs blocking a no-deal Brexit before October 31.
They told Lord Doherty in the court of session yesterday that their petition “raises legal issues of profound constitutional significance and these require to be considered and determined as a matter of extreme urgency”.
Lord Doherty agreed to expedite the timetable for the legal challenge to take place, setting the date for the substantive hearing for September 6 – eight weeks before the Halloween departure date.
David Welsh QC – the lawyer working for the campaigners – argued the case needed to be heard “swiftly” because any judgment that came after the date the prime minister has committed to leaving the EU “would be rendered academic by the passing of time”.
“We are facing consequences of such extreme and severe nature that it’s important for the court to fulfil its role in ruling on the law and how it should be applied,” Mr Welsh said.
“There is ample evidence that the respondent will try to slow down as much as possible.”
Although acknowledging the “exceptional circumstances” of the case, Lord Doherty told Mr Welsh he would be refusing the request for the whole case to be heard by just one court.
“I’m not in a position to say that this is a case to report to the inner house,” he said.
“I don’t doubt your intentions but these are the practicalities.”
Andrew Webster QC, acting on behalf of the Advocate General, rejected the suggestion the Government wanted to delay proceedings to make any judgment irrelevant if not made by the October 31 deadline.
Mr Webster argued there was “no compelling need” for the case to be heard by the inner house that would usually deal with first appearances and appeals, rather than the outer house, which hears the arguments from both the petitioners and respondents.
“We have more than 11 weeks until October 31,” he said.
“One can squeeze a lot into 11 weeks.”
Labour MP Ian Murray, who is on of the petitioners, said after the hearing: “It’s great progress to have a full hearing in September before the prime minister can consider closing down parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.
“Congratulations thus far to the legal team.”
Ms Cherry added: “Litigation can’t stop Brexit or make Independence happen but it can be used to make sure that right wing politicians like Johnson don’t try to subvert democracy.
“There’s no mandate for no-deal Brexit and in Scotland no mandate for any Brexit.”