Boris Johnson asks Queen to suspend UK Parliament as Brexit date looms

Posted at 5:37 AM, Aug 28, 2019

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has asked the Queen to suspend the UK Parliament from mid-September, a move that would shorten the time available to lawmakers to block a no-deal Brexit and has been decried by critics as a "constitutional outrage."

Parliament would be "prorogued" until October 14, Johnson said in a statement. Brexit is due to happen on October 31, and Johnson has promised the UK will leave the European Union on that date with or without a deal.

Members of Parliament (MPs) are due to return from a summer break on September 3, and the government's move means they will effectively have around a week to pass any legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson's plan will be considered at a meeting of the Privy Council at the Queen's Balmoral estate, according to reports. The Queen would have to formally approve the request.

British governments usually arrange for a new parliamentary session to begin every year. New sessions start with a Queen's Speech, which outlines the government's legislative priorities for the session. But former Prime Minister Theresa May allowed the previous session to drag on, as she repeatedly attempted to persuade lawmakers to pass her Brexit deal.

According to the Press Association, Commons Speaker John Bercow called the move a "constitutional outrage."

"It is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country," he said.

'Do or Die'

During the televised interview on Wednesday, Johnson denied that he was seeking to prevent Parliament from limiting his Brexit plans.

"That is completely untrue. If you look at what we're doing, we're bringing forward a new legislative program," he said.

"We need to get on with our domestic agenda and that is why we are announcing a Queen's Speech for October 14," Johnson.

In a letter to lawmakers, the Prime Minister said Parliament "will have the opportunity to debate the Government's overall program, and approach to Brexit, in the run up to EU Council, and then vote on this on 21 and 22 October, once we know the outcome of the Council."

Johnson is demanding that the EU reopens the Brexit agreement, which European leaders have been reluctant to do.

However, "should I succeed in agreeing a deal with the EU, Parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the Bill required for ratification of the deal ahead of 31 October," Johnson wrote.

But his "do or die"' position on Brexit has prompted a number of UK opposition party leaders to agree on a strategy to avert a no-deal Brexit on Tuesday.

Options include "the possibility of passing legislation and a vote of no confidence," according to a joint statement from the UK's Labour Party, SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Independent Group for Change.

Opposition politicians were furious about the move on Wednesday.

"Unless MPs come together to stop him next week, today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy," Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote on Twitter.

"We do not have a 'new government'. This action is an utterly scandalous affront to our democracy. We cannot let this happen," Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson wrote on Twitter.

Green MP Caroline Lucas called Johnson "cowardly" on Twitter, adding that the Prime Minister "knows his reckless No Deal Brexit will never gain the support of MPs. A constitutional outrage which Parliament and the people will oppose."

Currently, Johnson has a parliamentary majority of one. This makes him vulnerable to losing a vote of no-confidence. While bringing down his government wouldn't automatically stop a no-deal Brexit, it could trigger a series of events that leads to him requesting a Brexit extension.