Johnson seeks Parliament suspension ahead of Brexit

IANS
Wednesday, 28 August 2019

"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 October 31."

London: The UK government will suspend Parliament in second week of September after the summer recess, a move that could prevent MPs from voting to block a possible no-deal Brexit, prompting widespread criticism from the opposition amid accusations of a "coup".

In a letter to lawmakers, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had asked Queen Elizabeth II to suspend the current parliamentary period in the second week of September till October 14, when there would be a Queen's Speech, something that is traditionally done to unveil a new government agenda. 

Johnson rejected the idea that he asked the Queen to suspend the Parliament in order to give lawmakers less time to stop a no-deal Brexit. He said that suggestion was "completely untrue", the BBC reported.

"We need new legislation. We've got to be bringing forward new and important bills and that's why we are going to have a Queen's Speech.

He said that he believed any vote in the House of Commons, the UK's lower legislative chamber, on the government's new programme or a possible deal with the EU should be done once his Cabinet's ambitions are clear and after the conclusions of a European Council meeting on October 17-18 are known, according to Efe news. 

"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 October 31."

The House is therefore set to be suspended from September 10 till October 14. 

MPs will return to work on September 3 and Brexit, as it currently stands, will go ahead with or without a deal on October 31.

Johnson said the House of Commons could vote on a possible EU agreement on October 21-22. He has kept the option of a no-deal Brexit, whereby the UK crashes out of the bloc with no future relationship in place, firmly on the table. 

The decision prompted immediate and fierce protest from political leaders in the opposition whereas the Conservative Party's leadership played the move off as "normal government protocol".

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said: "I have had no contact from the government, but if the reports that it is seeking to prorogue Parliament are confirmed, this move represents a constitutional outrage." 

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that Johnson should instead call a general election. 

"I am appalled at the recklessness of Johnson's government, which talks about sovereignty and yet is seeking to suspend Parliament to avoid scrutiny of its plans for a reckless No Deal Brexit. This is an outrage and a threat to our democracy," he said in a statement.

The Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, John McDonell, said: "Make no mistake, this is a very British coup."

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister and head of the anti-Brexit, pro-Scottish independence SNP, said: "Unless MPs come together to stop him next week, today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy."

With just 64 days until Brexit, talks between the UK and the EU's negotiating teams have stalled. 

Johnson, who campaigned for Leave in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, is opposed to the current withdrawal deal, which was drawn up by his predecessor Theresa May and was rejected three times by the Commons. 

He has said the UK would leave the EU on October 31 at all costs, even if there was no future deal between London and Brussels. The EU has repeatedly said it would not reopen the withdrawal deal. 

One of the key sticking points in the deal for hardline Brexit politicians like Johnson is the so-called Irish backstop -- a mechanism that would ensure a soft border between Northern Ireland, a UK territory, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, in the event that a future deal between the EU and the UK falls through. 

The new Tory leader, who took over from May on July 24, has threatened to withhold the UK's divorce bill, which is around 32 billion pounds.

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