U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson asks Queen to suspend parliament to push forward with no-deal Brexit
British MP’s have been voicing their unending concerns that the U.K. may face a constitutional crisis after it was revealed Wednesday that Prime Minister Boris Johnson contacted the Queen to ask that she temporarily suspend Parliament.
“The prime minister confirmed in a letter that he had asked the queen to close Parliament from early September until mid-October,” reports NBC News. “He said the current parliamentary session had gone on too long, and claimed the move was the best way to pursue his “bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda.”
Critics of Johnson and Remainers alike, many who are known for trying to thwart previous Brexit plans, were outraged over Johnson’s royal request and characterized it as unconstitutional.
The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, said Johnson’s move would be a “constitutional outrage.”
“However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of [suspending Parliament] now would be to stop [MPs] debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country,” Bercow said. Additionally, the speaker said that it would be “an offence against the democratic process and the rights of Parliamentarians as the people’s elected representatives.”
“Constitutional outrage” seems to be a common phrase thrown around after Wednesday’s revelation.
“Boris Johnson’s attempt to suspend parliament to avoid scrutiny of his plans for a reckless No Deal Brexit is an outrage and a threat to our democracy,” opposition party leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a tweet.
“Labour will work across Parliament to hold the government to account and prevent a disastrous No Deal.”
“It is a constitutional outrage,” said Corbyn in an interview with Sky News that was posted to his Twitter. “This is an attempt by a Prime Minister, who was elected by a very small number of people in the country, the Conservative Party membership, to ride roughshod over parliament and to prevent any legislation or debate that would stop this country leaving the EU without a deal and all the problems it would cause.
“[Johnson] seems to want to run headlong into the arms of Donald Trump with more determination than I’ve ever seen in anyone before,” Corbyn continued. “This is extraordinary. He needs to be held to account by parliament, not by shutting down parliament, but by attending parliament and answering the questions…”
According to the BBC, shutting down parliament is technically call prorogation and can only be enacted at the behest of the Queen after the prime minister advises the Queen to do so.
So, yes, it is possible for the Queen to shut down parliament, and it has been done in the past. However, the decision to suspend parliament through monarchal powers has become a highly controversial proposition in contemporary U.K. politics, especially during Brexit, a similarly controversial moment in the U.K.’s history.
In a tweet, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw said, “[Johnson’s move] would be a coup, plain and simple, against our parliamentary democracy [and would] drag the monarch into an unprecedented constitutional crisis. [It] must be resisted by all true democrats.”
The tweet included the hashtags ‘#blockthecoup’ and ‘#brexitshambles’.
Additionally, former Prime Minister John Mayor, and other high-profile figures, have already threatened to go to the courts to stop Johnson, and a “legal challenge led by the SNP’s justice spokeswoman, Joanna Cherry, is already working its way through the Scottish courts,” reports the BBC.
In an interview, Remainer and First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon called the possible suspension of parliament a move towards a “dictatorship.”
“Shutting down Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit, which will do untold and lasting damage to the country against the wishes of MPs is not democracy, it’s dictatorship,” she said.
According to the BBC, despite promises to block Johnson through the judiciary, “it is not possible to mount a legal challenge to the Queen’s exercise of her personal prerogative powers.” However, “BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said a judicial review could be launched into the advice given to her by the prime minister – to determine whether that advice was lawful.”
In response to Johnson’s move, Labour MP David Lammy called for “peaceful protests and civil disobedience” if the Queen were to exercise her power. He then posted a series of tweets comparing this moment in U.K.’s history to the civil rights movement in America.
“With this, the unelected poundshop dictator Boris Johnson threatens to end Britain’s long history of Parliamentary democracy,” he said. “If Parliament is silenced on the biggest issue of our time we must take to the streets in peaceful protest and civil disobedience.”
It is not clear what sort of “civil disobedience” Lammy wants to see, only that other tweets suggest that he believes civil disobedience will put pressure on parliament to block the decision, much like the civil rights movement put pressure on American congress.