Johnson flew back from addressing the UN General Assembly to face calls to resign from politicians, pundits and the public – even from the Financial Times – but appears set to continue on his mission to pull the UK out from the European Union, “do or die” in his own words, on October 31.
In his first appearance back in the House of Commons, he called parliament “gridlocked, paralysed and refusing to deliver”.
“It is absolute no disrespect to the judiciary to say that I think the court was wrong to pronounce on what is essentially a political question,” he said. His words were met with jeers and shouts of “arrogance”.
In handing down the Supreme Court’s ruling on Tuesday, Justice Lady Hale, the court’s president, had said “the courts have exercised a supervisory jurisdiction over the lawfulness of acts of the government for centuries. As long ago as 1611, the court held that ‘the king [who was then the government] hath no prerogative but that which the law of the land allows him’.”
Johnson continued: “After three years of dither and delay [this parliament has] left this country at risk of being locked forever in the orbit of the EU.”
UK Parliament resumes after prorogation ruled unlawful
Johnson went on to trumpet his alleged progress in talks with the European Union before goading the opposition, telling its leader to either try to topple him or, if not, to “stand aside”.
“This parliament must either stand aside and let this government get Brexit done, or bring a vote of no confidence and finally face the day of reckoning with the voters,” said Johnson.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn replied: “This government is failing the people of Britain, and the people of Britain know it.”
He continued: “After yesterday, he should have done the decent thing and resigned.”
Speaking about Parliament being back in operation, he added: “The government has failed to silence our democracy.”
Corbyn dismissed Johnson’s statement as “ten minutes of bluster from a shameless prime minister who thinks he is above the law; instead he is simply not fit for the office – with no shred of remorse or humility”.
With no ability to command a governing majority in Parliament, it is far from certain that Johnson will be successful in calling a snap election.
As the Commons reconvened its previous session, Attorney-General Geoffrey Cox was summoned by MPs to explain the government’s position.
Cox said there would be an “election motion that will be coming before the House shortly”.
However, a snap election requires the support of two-thirds of parliamentarians – and opposition parties prefer to keep Johnson on a tight leash, at least until a Brexit extension is formally secured.
Trying to not break the law
Veteran Labour MP Barry Sheerman accused the government of having “no shame”:
“This government cynically manipulated the prorogation to shut down this house so that it couldn’t work as a democratic assembly.”
Cox said Johnson would abide by a law passed this month demanding Brexit be delayed to avoid a “no-deal” exit, but did not explain how the government could do so and still keep its promise. Johnson again referred to it as “the surrender law” in Parliament on Wednesday.
Johnson’s best chance of securing re-election would be to actually secure an EU exit deal before the October 31 deadline for the UK’s withdrawal. Such an outcome would also stop him from breaking the law.
But a deal at this late stage is seeming unlikely with the EU saying the UK’s proposals to remove the Irish “backstop” were not suitable.
Last week, the UK said it had shared with the EU a “series of confidential technical non-papers” that reflect its Brexit ideas, adding it would submit formal written solutions “when we are ready” rather than meeting an “artificial deadline”.
The backstop – the contingency measure that would keep the UK closely aligned to Brussels’ rules in order to prevent a hard border with Ireland – is seen as the main stumbling block to a Brexit deal.
The “non-papers” shared by the UK focus on the agri-food zone, customs issues and on manufactured goods.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, said a meeting would take place in the European Parliament on Wednesday to discuss “the non-papers or so-called alternative proposals that have been put on the table”.
“They are not meeting the three conditions,” he said. “This point is not solved and this backstop needs to be in place as it is for them. We have already said from day one that if they want to change the backstop, they can go to the one they first proposed because the backstop as it is now was at the request of the UK government.”
‘Boris is a born winner’
Johnson has not changed his approach after the defeat in the highest court of the land, said Al Jazeera’s Paul Brennan, reporting from Westminster.
“He is pursuing the same line of bluster – as the opposition leader put it – or conviction if you’re a supporter of the prime minister,” he said. “There were no major surprises – it’s all been fairly typical of what has become a rather untypical period in this country’s politics.”
Meanwhile, a plan is in place to restrict holiday leave for police officers in Northern Ireland following Brexit.
Some 90 percent of officers will be prevented from taking time off for the first six weeks after the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union on October 31.
Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable George Clarke described it in an interview with the PA news agency as a “sensible operational contingency”, adding the measure will be kept under review.
Johnson is continuing his efforts to govern in the face of numerous obstacles. He has lost every single parliamentary vote of his premiership. He lost his parliamentary majority when he sacked 21 of his MPs and a further two defected. On Monday, he lost at the Supreme Court 11-0 as justices ruled unanimously against him.
And he has been given two weeks by the London Assembly to explain his relationship with Jennifer Arcuri, a pole-dancing American former model who reportedly accompanied Johnson on overseas trips during his time as London mayor, and whose company received about 120,000 pounds ($150,000) of taxpayers’ money in that time.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said the prime minister was a “born winner”, despite all evidence to the contrary.
“I think it is only fair to say that Boris is the Pep Guardiola of British politics,” Gove told the LBC radio station, referring to the manager of the Manchester City football club.
Many on social media disagreed, however.
“The only way in which Boris Johnson and Pep Guardiola are similar is that they’ve both had an impact on the value of Sterling,” tweeted a user named Sam Freeman.
The pound fell one percent against the dollar on Wednesday, ceding gains made the previous day after the Supreme Court’s ruling, as investors priced many more months of Brexit and general-election uncertainty.