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Conservative MP Edward Vaizey Weighs In On British Supreme Court Ruling


Today the British Supreme Court threw another wrench into Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Brexit plans. The court unanimously ruled that Johnson acted illegally when he suspended parliament for five weeks. That suspension prevented lawmakers from blocking the prime minister from taking the U.K. out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.

So Parliament will convene again tomorrow morning, and now Boris Johnson is a prime minister without a majority. Members of his own party abandoned him in a revolt earlier this month. One of those members was Ed Vaizey. He is now an Independent MP, having been kicked out of the Conservative Party over that rebellion with Johnson's no-deal Brexit plan.

Welcome to the program.

ED VAIZEY: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: So, Mr. Vaizey, what is your first priority when Parliament reconvenes tomorrow?

VAIZEY: Well, to a certain extent, the return of Parliament is slightly irrelevant now because when Boris Johnson suspended Parliament, we used the last few days remaining to pass legislation that means that if he can't get the deal by the 31st of October, he has to extend the deadline for Brexit to January. But obviously, the decision taken by the Supreme Court is very significant. It's the first time ever, really, that they've ruled on a dispute between the executive and the legislature on this power to suspend Parliament.

They made it clear that the courts can intervene if a prime minister decides to suspend Parliament in order to pursue his political ends, which is hugely significant, and it's been pretty humiliating for the prime minister, who's had to fly back from New York now that Parliament's resuming. I don't know what will happen when Parliament resumes because Parliament is now in control, and all sorts of different measures or legislative measures could be taken in the next few days, perhaps, to firm up the opposition to no-deal Brexit.

SHAPIRO: Apart from the October 31 deadline, there is another pressing question here, which is, can Boris Johnson continue to lead this country without a majority given all of the setbacks he's had, including this latest one from the Supreme Court?

VAIZEY: So we're in pretty unprecedented territory. For example, you would expect that after a court ruling like this where every single justice - all 11 of them - voted against the government in their decision, there might be resignations, but so far, there have been no resignations by the government ministers or, indeed, the advisers who came up with this crazy idea. But the other odd thing is that you might expect there to be an election, but we have a very complicated election law at the moment. And also, all the opposition parties were refusing to have an election until this October 31 deadline has passed.

SHAPIRO: You know, if I could...

VAIZEY: And our argument...

SHAPIRO: If I could ask you to take a step back from the pressing questions of the moment, Theresa May and Boris Johnson have both appeared to fail to get the U.K. out of the European Union. There has been one extension after another. What do you think the endgame here is? Could a different prime minister get it done? Will it be perpetual delay, another referendum? How does this end?

VAIZEY: Nobody knows. All I would say is that either he comes back with a deal or he - or we crash out or we have a second referendum. But what lies behind your question is that Parliament finally has to come to a decision, and there will come a point, if Parliament refuses to pass a deal, when I think Boris Johnson will win the argument and say, we just have to leave without a deal if you guys won't pass a deal.

SHAPIRO: Ed Vaizey is an Independent member of Parliament.

Thank you for joining us on such an eventful day in Britain.

VAIZEY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.