LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday denied lying to Queen Elizabeth II as he continues to face pressure over his decision to suspend Parliament in the midst of the ongoing Brexit crisis.
Johnson suspended Parliament from Tuesday until mid-October, something he claims is necessary to prepare for a new parliamentary session and a new legislative agenda.
Because of an archaic quirk of Britain’s constitutional monarchy, to do this he needed to ask foe the queen’s permission and explain his reasons for the suspension — the longest since World War II.
On Wednesday, the highest civil court in Scotland ruled that this advice and the suspension were unlawful because it was clearly designed to “stymie parliamentary scrutiny” of the government.
Asked in a BBC interview, “Did you lie to the queen when you asked her to [suspend] Parliament?” Johnson said, “Absolutely not.”
The comments put the prime minister at odds with three senior judges at Scotland’s Court of Session, where the case was heard.
The court ruled that the true motive for suspending Parliament was not, as Johnson told the queen, to pave the way for new legislation, but in fact designed to stop lawmakers scrutinizing his Brexit plans, which include the possibility of a highly controversial “no deal” scenario where the U.K. leaves with no divorce agreement.
“This was an egregious case of a clear failure to comply with generally accepted standards of behavior of public authorities,” the court’s summary said.
Defending himself Thursday, the prime minister noted that a parallel court case was rejected by England’s High Court. This and the Scottish case will be heard at the U.K.’s Supreme Court on Tuesday. Meanwhile on Thursday, a separate legal challenge to a no-deal Brexit was rejected in Northern Ireland.
Ministers and advisers in Johnson’s government have received criticism for suggesting the Scottish court’s decision was politically motivated. Johnson said this wasn’t his view, saying the U.K. legal system was “one of the great glories of our constitution. They are independent.”
Johnson says he wants to negotiate a new Brexit deal with Europe but claims he will willing to leave without a deal on Oct. 31 if necessary. This is despite the government’s own worst-case-scenario forecast — which it was forced to publish Wednesday — saying it could bring economic pain, civil unrest and shortages of food.
The legal cases have been launched by those determined to stop the prime minister continue with what they see as a reckless course of action.