Johnson asks Queen to shut down UK Parliament

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he has now asked the Queen to shut down Parliament, a move which makes a no-deal Brexit on October 31 more likely than ever.

28 August 2019
By Oliver Rowland

The announcement saw the pound drop from almost €1.11 to dip under €1.10 earlier today.

MPs opposed to a no-deal have expressed outrage at the prime minister’s move which they see as a bid to stop MPs having time to debate measures against a no-deal such as a law instructing the prime minister to seek an extension of Brexit day from the EU.

However the prime minister says it is because the current session of Parliament has gone on too long and he wants to end it so as to have a Queen’s Speech on October 14 setting out “a new bold and ambitious” programme of laws on issues like the NHS, fighting crime and cutting the cost of living.

He has stated that the MPs, who are still on their summer recess, will have “ample” time to debate Brexit, adding that a new bill ratifying the Brexit deal will be a top priority if the European Council on October 17-18 agrees to changes that are satisfactory to the UK.

Mr Johnson’s plan is to ‘prorogue’ Parliament, that is end the current session, during the week beginning Monday September 9, allowing little over a week for debates after Parliament resumes from its summer recess on Tuesday September 3.

Parliament would then shut for five weeks before a Queen’s Speech to open a new session on Monday October 14, Mr Johnson plans. A Queen’s Speech is normally followed by around a week of debates on its proposed bills, taking the calendar very close to the expected Brexit day.

Parliament was expected to take a recess of several weeks in late September/early October due to party conferences though there had been calls by some MPs to abandon this tradition this year. However a recess is a pause in business, whereas prorogation ends it, meaning any bills not yet finalised usually fall away.

Mr Johnson’s request to the Queen has not yet been formally accepted and some commentators have asked whether she might, exceptionally, refuse to meet it, in view of the harm that a no-deal Brexit could potentially do to the UK, including making a break-up of the union more likely.

The Conservative Party chairman, James Cleverly, downplayed anger at the move with a post on Twitter saying holding a Queen’s Speech to present new laws was something “all new governments do”.

However the speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said the move was a “constitutional outrage”.

“However it is dressed up it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty,” he said.

Opposition parties also spoke out, including the SNP’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, who said: “Boris Johnson must be stopped. It would be utterly disgraceful and undemocratic for the Tories to shut down democracy in a blatant plot to force through an extreme Brexit.

“This is a dark day for democracy in the UK. The Tory leader has no mandate, no majority, and is acting like a dictator by attempting to curtail Parliament to get his way.”

Labour’s deputy leader, Tom Watson, called the move “an utterly scandalous affront to our democracy” and added that “we cannot let this happen”.

It comes as yesterday a group of 160 MPs met at Church House in Westminster to sign a declaration that if the prime minister was to prorogue Parliament this would be “an undemocratic outrage at such a crucial moment for our country and a historic constitutional crisis”.

The MPs said they would resist any such attempt by whatever means necessary, including setting up an alternative parliament.

If there is no time to debate laws opposed to a no-deal, it is thought there may be a vote of no confidence in the prime minister.

However a Number 10 Downing Street official told The Financial Times that if this happened the government would call an election for after the UK has left on October 31.

  • For details of The Connexion’s forthcoming new guide to Brexit and Britons in France, see this link

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