The Prime Minister must obey the law – if not, we’ll see him in court

Posted by Martha Spurrier on 09 September 2019

Since Liberty was founded in 1934, it has held Governments of all colours and persuasions to account.

Today, we uphold that tradition as we seek a judicial review to ensure the Prime Minister obeys the law.

Over the past week, there’s been confusion and doubt about whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson will comply with the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 2)  Act 2019.

While there’s also been statements from the Lord Chancellor to the contrary this weekend, Liberty believes that on such a profoundly important issue, there can be no room for doubt.

We’re living in extraordinary political times. We as a nation are beyond doing ‘business as usual’.

No one is above the law

But just because we’re beyond the norm doesn’t mean the Government is now beyond the law.

While there’s no doubt that Brexit, whatever your views on it, has tested the patience of a nation and every Parliamentarian in Westminster, that frustration cannot lead to outright defiance of our laws.

Liberty is neutral on the issue of Brexit. Our case is nothing to do with whether the UK leaves the European Union. It’s nothing to do, even, with how we leave - Liberty has no view on whether the UK should seek a deal or leave without one. 

Our issue is about upholding legal obligations because if a Prime Minster defies the law we are in dangerous waters.

While we can all hypothesize about what exactly is broken with British democracy, the fact is we still have a legal framework and our Parliamentarians must operate within it.

To allow a Government, in whatever circumstance, to simply punch through parliamentary process and its laws because it’s not working in the way they would like, should concern every citizen of Britain.

Not a party political or Brexit issue

We know MPs from across all parties, including Conservative Brexiteers, are also considering legal action.

However, Brexit has left us, as a nation, in a blur of confusion. Separating what is really happening from the mess of party politics is all but impossible. Which is why Liberty is stepping up to defend the rule of law by asking the courts to uphold our constitutional principles.

This case must be brought by a wholly independent body such as Liberty, because this is not a party political or Brexit issue – it is far, far more fundamental than that.

For more than 80 years Liberty has played the role of independent watchdog. We’re not affiliated with any political party and receive no government funding – our role has always been to robustly challenge unjust laws, policies and practices.

We’re unshakeable in our independence. We’re also unafraid to hold the powerful to account.

We have a long history of engaging in litigation to protect human rights and civil liberties, from the Investigatory Powers Act to equal access to pension rights for same-sex couples.

Now, at a time when our Government looks to destabilise the very legal order on which civil liberties and human rights have been secured, our role has never been more vital.

The Government must act lawfully

Our case is simple: the UK government, whoever it is made up of and whatever it is seeking to do, must always act lawfully.

We hope the confusion is merely party political bluster and that the Prime Minister is not seriously intent on flouting his legal obligations. 

If not, then we will see him in court.

Martha Spurrier

Martha Spurrier