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Queen approves Boris Johnson's request to suspend parliament

Published: August 28, 2019 21:12:25 | Updated: September 02, 2019 12:20:24


-Reuters file photo

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II has approved an order from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend country's parliament from the second week in September until 14 October - just 17 days before the scheduled date of Brexit on Halloween.

Approval was given at a session of the Privy Council in Balmoral on Wednesday despite letters from opposition leaders Jeremy Corbyn and Jo Swinson requesting urgent meetings with the Queen to urge her to withhold it, reports independent.co.uk.

However, opponents of a no-deal Brexit have accused Boris Johnson of a “coup” against parliament, after it was announced that both the Commons and Lords will be suspended for more than a month in the run-up to the date of EU withdrawal.

Commons Speaker John Bercow denounced the suspension of sittings - due to begin between 9 and 12 September - as a "constitutional outrage", while former chancellor Philip Hammond described it as "profoundly undemocratic".

Mr Johnson insisted it was “completely untrue” to suggest he was shutting parliament because of Brexit.

Aides said MPs would have the opportunity to discuss the government’s EU withdrawal plans during debate on the Queen’s Speech and to take part in amendable votes following a crunch European Council summit on 17 October.

But the move dramatically reduces the time available to MPs to attempt to pass legislation to block no-deal and makes an early attempt to oust Mr Johnson in a vote of no confidence more likely.

Mr Bercow, who is holidaying with family, said he had received no advance notice of a prorogation, which he said represented "a constitutional outrage".

“However it is dressed up, 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," said the speaker.

"At this time, one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history, it is vital that our elected parliament has its say. After all, we live in a parliamentary democracy.

“Shutting down parliament would be an offence against the democratic process and the rights of parliamentarians as the people’s elected representatives.

 “Surely at this early stage in his premiership, the prime minister should be seeking to establish rather than undermine his democratic credentials and indeed his commitment to parliamentary democracy.”

Mr Corbyn revealed that opponents of no-deal still aim to table legislation next week before moving on to a no-confidence motion “at some point”.

In his letter to the Queen, the Labour leader warned that Mr Johnson’s manoeuvre would “deprive the electorate of the opportunity to have their representatives hold the Government to account”.

And he said: “There is a danger that the royal prerogative is being set directly against the wishes of a majority of the House of Commons.”

The pound tumbled on news of the latest political turmoil with just 64 days to go until Brexit.

Mr Hammond, who has become a prominent backbench critic of no-deal since quitting government before Mr Johnson's elevation, said: "It would be a constitutional outrage if parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national crisis. Profoundly undemocratic."

In a morning of drama in Westminster, Mr Johnson revealed he had spoken to the Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session, which has lasted since 2017 and is the longest for almost 400 years. The phone call to Balmoral was followed by a conference call with cabinet colleagues, who are understood to have voiced their support for the move.

The order was formally approved in a Privy Council meeting on Wednesday afternoon involving the Queen, Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, government chief whip Mark Spencer and Conservative leader in the Lords Baroness Evans.

Mr Johnson said the Queen’s Speech would allow him to set out a new agenda focusing on “helping the NHS, fighting violent crime, investing in infrastructure and science and cutting the cost of living”.

Downing Street sources said the prime minister does not want to wait any longer to turn the government’s focus onto domestic issues after three years dominated by Brexit. He regards his pledge to take the UK out of the EU on 31 October with or without a deal as sorting out the Brexit issue and wants to move on to other topics, they said.

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