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Boris Johnson flies back to face UK parliament as Brexit chaos deepens

File Photo: UK PM Boris Johnson Photograph:( Reuters )

Reuters London, United Kingdom Sep 25, 2019, 04.47 PM (IST)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned home from a foreign trip on Wednesday still intent on delivering Brexit on October 31 but facing demands from opponents for his resignation after a humiliating Supreme Court ruling that he had unlawfully suspended parliament.

With no end in sight to the three-year crisis over Britain's departure from the European Union, Johnson says the country will leave with or without an exit agreement. Most lawmakers are determined to block a no-deal scenario.

Parliament will sit again on Wednesday but it is unclear exactly what will emerge next from the Brexit deadlock.

Johnson has rejected calls from opponents to resign but opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Wednesday now was not the time for parliament to try and bring him down.

"Quite simply our first priority is to prevent a no-deal exit from the EU on the 31st of October," Corbyn said in an interview on BBC Radio 4.

The House of Commons, where Johnson has no majority, will reconvene on Wednesday after the Supreme Court ruling on Tuesday that his decision to suspend it for five weeks was unlawful and therefore null and void.

Before the suspension, parliament had passed a law requiring Johnson to ask the EU to push back the deadline if no exit deal was agreed by October 19. Corbyn said he and other opposition legislators would focus on ensuring that Johnson abided by that law.

Asked by reporters in New York on Tuesday how he planned to overcome that legal obstacle, Johnson simply ignored the question and insisted Brexit would take place on October 31 come what may.

Johnson has repeatedly said his preferred Brexit outcome would be to agree on an exit deal with the EU's 27 other members before the deadline and that he was hopeful he would achieve that.

However, EU negotiators say he has made no new proposals capable of breaking the deadlock over the issue of how to manage the border between Ireland, an EU member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, after Brexit.

'Stain on his Character'

Reactions to the Supreme Court's blistering ruling showed that divisions were deeper than ever.

"This ruling leaves a stain on his character and competence," the Financial Times newspaper said in its editorial. "Faced with such a damning judgment, any premier with a shred of respect for British democracy and the responsibilities of his office would resign."

At the other end of the spectrum, the Brexit-supporting Sun newspaper denounced the Supreme Court ruling as a "perilous coup by political judges".

"Boris, victim of yesterday's staggering legal coup, has to respect this court and its supposed impartiality. But in one unprecedented act of constitutional vandalism, 11 judges became an unelected political entity, granting themselves immense power to overrule our government and queen," it said in its leader column.

The Sun was echoing Jacob Rees-Mogg, the leader of the House of Commons and one of the most ardent advocates of Brexit, who was reported by British newspapers to have described the ruling as a "constitutional coup" during a conference call with Johnson and other cabinet members on Tuesday.

Johnson himself was combative after the ruling, saying in New York that he strongly disagreed with it and complaining that that too many people were trying to thwart Brexit against the will of the people.

But one of his own former cabinet members, Amber Rudd, said it would be irresponsible for the government to cast the ruling as an anti-Brexit move when Johnson's defence all along was that his decision to suspend parliament in the first place had nothing to do with Brexit.

Former minister Dominic Grieve, an anti-Johnson rebel within the ruling Conservative Party, accused the prime minister of behaving "like a bull in a china shop" and taking a sledgehammer to the constitution on a daily basis.

"Boris Johnson has decided to be a populist politician. That's a very dangerous thing to do, because stirring up people against parliament is not going to solve the country's problems. It will create more anger, more tension," he told Sky News.

Opposition leader Corbyn said in the BBC interview that once a no-deal Brexit had been averted, it would be appropriate to move a motion of no confidence to force the government to resign and then have a general election.