Former prime minister Stephen Harper has waded into the Brexit debate with sweeping criticisms of British Supreme Court judges, Scottish separatists and parliamentarians who oppose Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Mr. Harper gave a ringing endorsement of Mr. Johnson during a panel discussion at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, England, on Tuesday. The British Prime Minister has pledged to pull the country out of the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a withdrawal agreement.
Mr. Johnson’s actions on Brexit have been “absolutely correct,” Mr. Harper told party members. “They are tough but they are necessary. Britain cannot be in its negotiations with the European Union wedded to a deal at all costs.”
Mr. Johnson is expected to unveil a new offer to the EU during his speech at the conference on Wednesday, including addressing the thorny issue of how to keep the Irish border open after Brexit.
There have been reports that Britain is proposing some form of customs checks along the Irish border, something EU negotiators have rejected as unworkable. Mr. Johnson’s officials said on Tuesday that if Brussels doesn’t accept the offer, the government will not negotiate further or seek an extension to the deadline.
Mr. Harper applauded Mr. Johnson’s tough tone and then turned on Britain’s Supreme Court, chastising it for making a precedent-setting ruling last month that restricted the Prime Minister’s ability to suspend Parliament.
The court’s 11 judges unanimously ruled that Mr. Johnson’s attempt to prorogue Parliament for five weeks was unlawful and had prevented MPs from scrutinizing his Brexit strategy.
The judges said Mr. Johnson had not given any justification for the lengthy suspension and that it “had the effect of frustrating or preventing the ability of Parliament to carry out its constitutional functions.”
Mr. Harper said prorogation was an important tool for prime ministers and cited his own experience using it.
In 2008, Mr. Harper suspended Parliament for roughly six weeks to avoid a vote of no-confidence in his minority government and to prevent the opposition parties forming a caretaker government. In 2009, he prorogued Parliament for a shorter period, which stopped a House of Commons committee from investigating allegations Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan had allowed detainees to be tortured.
Mr. Harper said the 2008 prorogation in particular had saved the country from “long-term damage to the Canadian federation.” Prorogation was “unquestionably a prerogative of the prime minister” and judges should not get involved, he said.
Mr. Harper was also asked about the future of the United Kingdom after Brexit and whether Scotland would separate, or if Northern Ireland would unify with Ireland in order to remain in the EU.
He dismissed the reunificiation of Ireland, suggesting a majority of people in Northern Ireland still favour staying in the U.K.
On Scotland, he said the British government should not follow Canada’s example of having “multiple referendums” on independence. Scotland voted 55 per cent to remain in the U.K. in a referendum in 2014, but the Scottish Nationalist government has indicated that it wants to hold another vote.
Mr. Harper said the British government should be uncompromising toward separatists.
“People voted. They made a decision and you’re going to live with it. You are not going to have another referendum until you get your way,” he said.
He criticized a rebel alliance of British MPs who have battled Mr. Johnson and passed a law that prevents Britain from crashing out of the EU on Halloween without a deal.
“The problem here has been people who not only don’t accept the [2016 Brexit] referendum result, but have consistently tried to undermine Britain’s negotiating position going forward,” Mr. Harper said.
He also agreed with Mr. Johnson’s characterization of the Parliamentary law as “the surrender act,” which has led to criticism in Britain that Mr. Johnson is inciting anger toward MPs.
“Power to the Prime Minister for calling this act of Parliament the surrender act. That’s exactly what it is,” Mr. Harper said. “When my opposition was complaining about some term I was using … it means it’s hurting. It’s true and it’s hurting and you need to make them hurt more until they back off.”