Northern Ireland

Brexit: Supreme court ruling 'weakens' PM's hand in negotiations

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption'It's a step into the political realm by judges' - DUP's Nigel Dodds

The DUP deputy leader has said that it would now be "very unwise" to predict when the UK will leave the EU.

Nigel Dodds' comments came following the Supreme Court's ruling that the decision to suspend Parliament broke the law.

He told the BBC the ruling had weakened Prime Minister Boris Johnson's hand in Brexit negotiations.

Mr Dodds added that the decision must be respected.

The court made the decision over Mr Johnson's suspension - or prorogation - of Parliament.

Mr Dodds also said the "shenanigans" in the Commons had weakened the prime minister's hand in negotiations.

He said that despite the decision "we do still need a deal with the EU to be negotiated".

"This is just another step on the way and there will be many more twists and turns in the saga," he said.

"I think it would be very unwise for anyone to predict, never mind the end of October, what's going to happen next week. I think we're in unchartered territory."

He added: "There still needs to be a negotiation with Europe. Some of the language we are hearing out of Brussels about their intransigence is not very encouraging."

"I hope we can make progress," he added.

Supreme Court president Lady Hale said "the effect on the fundamentals of democracy was extreme".

Earlier on Tuesday the DUP leader Arlene Foster said that the court's decision must be respected.

Sinn Féin's vice president Michelle O'Neill called on Mr Johnson to resign.

Downing Street said it was "currently processing the verdict".

Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) Leo Varadkar insisted the ruling was an internal matter for the UK.

Mrs Foster tweeted that the party had "always respected the principle of the separation of powers upon which our constitutional law is founded".

Speaking at a press conference in Belfast, Ms O'Neill said Brexit was "reckless and catastrophic" for Northern Ireland's people and industries.

Ms O'Neill said she was "interested in standing up for the interests of people who live here on this island," and that these interests would never be best served by Westminster.

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media caption'Boris Johnson should go' - Michelle O'Neill

Sinn Féin leader Mary-Lou McDonald added that the ruling "reflects the chaos that has arisen on Boris Johnson's watch".

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described Boris Johnson as "unfit for office" and urged opposition leaders to table a motion of no confidence in his government.

"Full scrutiny of this government and its plans for a hard Brexit must now be restored and challenged immediately," he said, calling for Mr Johnson's resignation and an election to be held.

SDLP MLA and the party's former Brexit spokeswoman Claire Hanna said the judgement was "explosive" and left the government with "zero credibility".

"I think the government and their DUP enablers need to explain how we got here," she said, calling on Boris Johnson to resign.

Alliance Party leader Naomi Long said the decision from the Supreme Court was a "momentous, unprecedented and far-reaching decision".

Image copyright PA
Image caption Alliance leader Naomi Long said parliamentary scrutiny at "this crucial time in the Brexit process is vital"

"Parliamentary scrutiny at this crucial time in the Brexit process is vital. It is clear now the prime minister and his inner circle acted unlawfully," she said, and added her voice to calls for the prime minister to resign.

'Fast and loose'

Green Party leader Claire Bailey said the decision by the Supreme Court had cut across the "Westminster chaos".

"It's imperative that Parliament is reconvened and all efforts are directed towards preventing a no-deal Brexit," she said, calling for a "people's vote".

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann described it as a "devastating judgement for the Johnson government" and a warning "nobody should play fast and loose with parliamentary process".

"I warned at the time that this was an abuse of process and the fact that we have reached this point is deeply regrettable and may have political consequences for decades to come," he said.

The party positions on prorogation

Of Northern Ireland's main political parties, only the DUP - which is in a confidence-and-supply agreement with the government - supported the move.

Ahead of the legal challenge, Boris Johnson's administration had been set to have the Queen's Speech - laying out the government's plans - on 14 October.

Arlene Foster said there was "nothing unusual" about the move to suspend Parliament and Mr Johnson was "well within his rights to look for a Queen's speech".

"The new session of Parliament will set a new domestic legislative programme which can deal with the matters most important to people such as their safety, their schools and their hospitals."

TUV leader Jim Allister also supported the move and said it would "appear to bring us closer to implementing the will of the people".

Image copyright Brian Lawless
Image caption TUV leader Jim Allister previously said prorogation would "appear to bring us closer to implementing the will of the people"

Speaking after prorogation was announced, Colum Eastwood said it had been an "anti-democratic" move.

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy said the DUP was "foolish" for backing Mr Johnson.

Alliance leader Naomi Long called the proroguing of parliament a "desperate act", while UUP leader Robin Swann called it an "abuse of power".

More on this story