Boris Johnson has denied lying to the Queen after Scotland’s highest court ruled he had asked her to suspend Westminster with the “improper purpose of stymying Parliament”.
The Prime Minister’s declaration came as MSPs accused the UK government of having “doctored” a dossier on preparations for a no-deal Brexit, which warned of possible price rises, shortages of food and medicines, and the risk of public disorder.
The Court of Session ruled on Wednesday that the five-week prorogation of Parliament was unlawful because it was obtained to prevent MPs from debating Brexit.
Answering questions for the first time since the ruling emerged, the Prime Minister insisted he had sought the suspension so the government could set out a new legislative programme in a Queen’s Speech on 14 October.
Asked whether he had lied to the monarch about the reasons for the prorogation, Mr Johnson replied: “Absolutely not.”
He said the High Court in England had taken a different view from the Court of Session, and pointed out the case would now be decided in the Supreme Court, where a hearing will take place on Tuesday.
“The High Court in England plainly agrees with us, but the Supreme Court will have to decide,” he said. “We need a Queen’s Speech, we need to get on and do all sorts of things at a national level.”
At Holyrood, Mr Johnson’s administration was accused of “doctoring” a document relating to Operation Yellowhammer – the codename for the UK government’s no-deal preparations – to downplay the risk of crashing out of the EU.
On Wednesday, the UK government released a version of the document, with a heading stating that it represented a “reasonable worst case scenario”.
But Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the Conservative government had been “caught red handed” after Nicola Sturgeon revealed the Yellowhammer report the Scottish Government received was entitled “base scenario”.
The UK government resisted the publication of the Operation Yellowhammer document, but lost a vote on the issue in the Commons on Monday, prior to the suspension of Parliament, so it was compelled to release the details.
The six-page document, written in August, had previously been leaked, and warns of disruption at channel crossings for at least three months, an increased risk of public disorder and some shortages of fresh food and medicines.
Michael Gove, the Cabinet secretary responsible for no-deal preparations, has previously tweeted that “Yellowhammer is a reasonable worst case scenario NOT our base case of what will happen”.
And a Number 10 source told The Scotsman yesterday: “This conspiracy theory that somehow things have changed is completely wrong because Operation Yellowhammer has always been about the worst-case scenario.”
Answering Mr Rennie, Ms Sturgeon said it was “shocking it’s taken so long” for the information on no-deal preparations to be published.
“In terms of Yellowhammer, what we have seen in the Scottish Government is what was published,” the First Minister said “The only difference I can confirm is in the title.
“The version we have has the title base scenario rather than reasonable working scenario as appeared on the document published last night. It’s for the UK government to explain if there’s any significance to that.
“We have been expecting an update of that document, which is dated 2 August, but we haven’t yet received an update.”
Meanwhile, in Brussels, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator said there were no grounds to restart talks with the UK, because there were no new proposals on breaking the deadlock over the Irish border backstop. “We will see in the coming weeks if the British are able to make concrete proposals in writing that are legally operational,” Michel Barnier told senior members of the European Parliament in a private briefing.
“We have no reason to be optimistic... I cannot tell you objectively whether contacts with the government of Mr Johnson will be able to reach an agreement by mid-October.”
Next week MEPs will vote on resolution that will support an extension of the UK’s Brexit deadline provided the purpose is “to avoid a ‘no-deal exit,’ to hold a general election or a referendum, to revoke Article 50, or to approve a Withdrawal Agreement.”