Queen asked by UK government to suspend parliament during crucial Brexit period
melis82/iStock(LONDON) — The U.K. government is set to ask the queen to suspend Parliament, which will, in effect, stop opposition lawmakers from blocking Brexit.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly dodged questions as to whether or not he will ask the queen to suspend Parliament in recent weeks. Now, he has formally asked the queen to suspend Parliament in the middle of September. It will remain suspended until Parliament re-opens on Oct. 14.
By suspending Parliament, opposition lawmakers will have less time to come up with a plan to thwart a no-deal Brexit on the scheduled Oct. 31 deadline for the U.K. to leave the European Union.
The suspending of Parliament is known as “proroguing” Parliament. When Parliament is prorogued, any motions or questions lawmakers have put forward then lapse until Parliament formally opens again.
“The Prime Minister has briefed Cabinet colleagues that the government will bring forward an ambitious new legislative programme for MPs’ approval, and that the current parliamentary session will be brought to an end,” Downing Street said in a statement. “The Prime Minister has spoken to Her Majesty The Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September. Following the conclusion of the traditional party conference season, the second session of this Parliament will commence with a Queen’s Speech on Monday 14 October.”
Johnson said the suspension of Parliament had nothing to do with blocking scrutiny of his Brexit plans, and was about delivering on his domestic policy agenda.
“To deliver on the public’s priorities we require a new session and a Queen’s Speech,” the prime minister said. “I hope, a deal with the EU is forthcoming, Parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill required for ratification ahead of 31 October.”
In a letter circulated to all members of Parliament, Johnson said that “the Government will take the responsible approach of continuing its preparations for leaving the EU, with or without a deal.”
However, the highly controversial move has dragged the monarch into the Brexit debate for the first time. The last time a British government asked the monarch to suspend Parliament in order to avoid opposition to government policy was in 1948, five years before Queen Elizabeth II assumed the throne, according to the Institute for Government.
The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, whose role is to preside over Parliamentary debates, described the move as a “constitutional outrage.”
It is likely that the queen, whose powers are almost entirely symbolic, will accept the government’s request. This would give opposition lawmakers under three weeks to scrutinize the government’s Brexit plan.
Johnson has said that the U.K. will leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, despite critics of a no-deal Brexit warning that it would have a disastrous economic impact on the British economy.
The immediate reaction to the news has been one of shock from the majority of lawmakers opposed to the Johnson government.
The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted that “today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy.”
Anna Soubry, a lawmaker who is in favor of remaining in the EU and is campaigning for a second Brexit referendum, said the move was “outrageous.”
However, James Cleverly, a conservative lawmaker who serves in the current Johnson government, played down the news.
“Put it another way,” Cleverly tweeted. “Government to hold a Queen’s Speech, just as all new Governments do.”
Johnson said from Downing Street that, despite the suspension, lawmakers would still have “ample time” on both sides to debate Brexit in the coming weeks.
Opposition lawmakers now have less time to advance a plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit. This could involve a legal challenge to the government through judicial review, as advocated by former Prime Minister John Major. However, it is more likely that lawmakers will call a no confidence motion in the government which, if successful, would force a general election.
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