Queen approves request to suspend U.K. Parliament amid Brexit crisis
Opposition MPs react with fury to news time will be short cut to derail no-deal Brexit
The Queen has approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's request to suspend the U.K. Parliament next month, amid a growing crisis over Brexit, Britain's Privy Council confirmed in a statement Wednesday.
Though Johnson previously had refused to rule out such a move, the timing of the decision took lawmakers — many of whom are on vacation — by surprise, and caused opposition legislators to react with fury.
MPs contend Johnson wants to limit the ability of lawmakers to come up with legislation to block a no-deal Brexit.
The prime minister said the Queen approved suspending Parliament for 32 days, from Sept. 12 to Oct.14, the day Johnson asked her to deliver her speech outlining the government's legislative agenda.
Since Parliament is normally suspended before the speech, the decision means opposition MPs would be unlikely to have enough time to pass laws blocking the U.K.'s exit from the European Union without a negotiated deal by Oct. 31.
But Johnson argued otherwise.
"There will be ample time in Parliament for MPs to debate the EU, to debate Brexit and all the other issues, ample time," he told reporters.
Asked if he was trying to block MPs from delaying Britain's EU departure, he replied: "That is completely untrue."
Leaders of the opposition parties were so incensed by Johnson's plan that several wrote to the monarch asking for a meeting to express their concern.
"So it seems that Boris Johnson may actually be about to shut down Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit," Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted before the request was approved. "Unless MPs come together to stop him next week, today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for U.K. democracy."
So it seems that Boris Johnson may actually be about to shut down Parliament to force through a no deal Brexit. Unless MPs come together to stop him next week, today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy. <a href="https://t.co/68lFnEgiyr">https://t.co/68lFnEgiyr</a>—@NicolaSturgeon
Another strong condemnation came from the Labour Party's home affairs spokesperson, Diane Abbott.
"Boris Johnson is aiming for a coup against Parliament. Against you the voters and your political representatives. For a disastrous No Deal," Abbott said in a tweet.
Labour MP Dame Margaret Beckett told the BBC that Johnson is "exploiting the Queen" in order to prevent Parliament from stopping a no-deal Brexit.
"It is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country," Commons Speaker John Bercow told Press Association, adding that it's a "constitutional outrage."
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said Johnson is doing "a sort of smash and grab" on democracy.
"This is shutting down Parliament early to prevent a debate. Boris Johnson knows that perfectly well. What he's doing is suspending Parliament after a few days sitting, break for conference and then dissolve Parliament altogether and come back with a Queen's speech sometime in October," Corbyn said.
"He is trying to prevent Parliament [from] holding him to account," said Corbyn, who added his party will challenge Johnson with a motion of no confidence "at some point" if he can't be stopped through legislation.
"We will do absolutely everything we can next Tuesday to legislate, to prevent him doing that, and oppose this government for what it's doing," he said.
British MPs are due to return to work after their summer holidays on Tuesday.
Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament's chief Brexit official, called Johnson's move "sinister."
"As a fellow parliamentarian, my solidarity [is] with those fighting for their voices to be heard," he tweeted. "Suppressing debate on profound choices is unlikely to help deliver a stable future EU - UK relationship."
Speaking in Brussels, European Commission spokesperson Mina Andreeva said the EU will not comment on "internal political procedures" of member states or "speculate what this means in terms of next steps in the U.K.'s parliamentary procedures."
The pound dropped on the news, down to $1.22 US from almost $1.23 the previous day.
Hundreds of people packed College Green park outside Parliament, waving EU flags and placards to express their anger, while 25 bishops from the Church of England released an open letter about their worries about the "economic shocks" of a no-deal Brexit on the poor and other vulnerable people.
A petition on a government website demanding that Parliament not be suspended has also received more than 100,000 signatures — guaranteeing that it will be considered for debate.
On Tuesday, opposition legislators declared they will work together to try to stop a departure from the European Union without an agreement, setting up a legislative challenge to Johnson and his promise to complete the divorce by Oct. 31— come what may.
Some 160 MPs have signed a declaration pledging "to do whatever is necessary" to prevent Johnson from bypassing Parliament in his plans. Johnson's do-or-die promise has raised worries about a disorderly divorce that would see new tariffs on trade and border checks between Britain and the EU, seriously disrupting business.
Johnson had refused to rule out suspending Parliament, saying it was up to legislators to carry out the decision of the 2016 referendum to leave the EU and that the public is "yearning for a moment when Brexit comes off the front pages."
With files from Reuters and CBC News