by Kim Hjelmgaard

28 August 2019

Boris Johnson asks Queen Elizabeth to suspend Parliament to force through Brexit

LONDON — Britain's Queen Elizabeth II was asked Wednesday by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament, a constitutionally unusual move that makes it easier for Johnson to force through the country's departure from the European Union.

It means British parliamentarians, determined to stop the nation leaving the EU without a formal exit deal, will have little time to do so just weeks ahead of a Brexit deadline on Oct. 31. Johnson requested the Queen "prorogue" Parliament — shut it down, essentially — on Sept. 10, a week after lawmakers return from a summer recess.

Critics argue the move subverts the democratic process. Dominic Grieve, a member of Johnson's ruling Conservative Party, called it "an outrageous act" and warned that it could lead to a no confidence vote.

"This government will come down"

said Grieve

Britain's monarch rarely intervenes directly in politicized affairs of state and it would be exceptionally rare for her to defy the prime minister's request.

The British pound currency fell sharply on the news, recently down almost 1% against the dollar.

Opposition parties in recent days have been formulating plans to prevent a "no-deal" Brexit, which economists and political scientists believe could dramatically harm Britain's economy and lead to chaos on the nation's borders. However, since taking over as Britain's leader last month, Johnson has vowed to pursue Brexit at any cost.

"Unless MPs come together to stop (Johnson) ... today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy" Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted Wednesday.

Jo Swinson, the Liberal Democrat leader, said Johnson was embarking on a "dangerous and unacceptable course of action." She said that "shutting down Parliament would be an act of cowardice from Boris Johnson."

In a statement, Johnson said Parliament would re-start on Oct. 14, giving rebelling lawmakers only two weeks to find a way to thwart any "no-deal" Brexit. He also characterized the decision as less about Brexit and more about an attempt to "bring forward a new bold and ambitious legislative agenda" aimed at helping to boost funding to Britain's state health care system, fighting crime and cutting living costs.

Johnson said there would be enough time for lawmakers to debate Brexit. "It is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and preforming its duty," said John Bercow, the speaker of the Parliament. He has pledged to fight Parliament's suspension.

Britain's Parliament is typically "prorogued" once a year for a short time, usually in April or May, to allow for any backlogged legislation to wend its way through the legislative body. But it's not considered normal for it be suspended for other reasons. It's not immediately clear if or how lawmakers can effectively oppose Johnson's request.

"Boris Johnson and his government are trashing the constitution … While Parliament is not even sitting, he is disgracefully dragging the queen into the heart of the most difficult and dangerous exploitation of the usual powers of government," said Margaret Beckett, a Labour Party politician.

The move also ultimately adds to speculation, disputed by Johnson and members of his Cabinet, that his government is preparing to call a snap general election aimed at reaffirming a mandate to take Britain out of the 28-nation EU political bloc.

Nigel Farage, a leading Brexit supporter and close ally of President Donald Trump, said Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament was a good one and means that a general election is "more likely and is seen as a positive move by Brexiteers."

On the sidelines of the G-7 summit in southwest France over the weekend, Johnson's handling of Brexit was praised by President Donald Trump. "He’s the right man for the job," Trump said of Johnson. "I've been saying that for a long time."

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