British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dropped a bombshell, as he unveiled plans to suspend Parliament until October 14, days ahead of the October 31 Brexit deadline, in order to present what was described as a ‘new bold and ambitious legislative agenda’, a move which has attracted widespread criticism from the Opposition.
Downing Street said Johnson had spoken to Queen Elizabeth II to request an end to the current parliamentary session in its second sitting week next month, starting September 9.
Three Conservative party members of the Queen’s Privy Council, the monarch’s body of advisers, took the formal request to her Scottish residence at Balmoral Castle on behalf of Johnson.
It was then approved, allowing the government to suspend Parliament any time between September 9 and 12 until October 14.
British MPs will now return from their ongoing summer recess next Tuesday and will conclude business by the following week, giving them very little time to table any new legislative measures for debate.
“Following the conclusion of the traditional party conference season, the second session of this Parliament will commence with a Queen’s Speech on Monday 14 October,” Downing Street said in a statement.
The House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow, led the charge against the move, describing it as 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,” he said.
Opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Suspending Parliament is not acceptable, it is not on. What the Prime Minister is doing is a smash and grab on our democracy to force through a no deal.”
He said when MPs return to the Commons next Tuesday, ‘The first thing we’ll do is attempt legislation to prevent what (the PM) is doing’, followed by a vote of no confidence ‘at some point’.
Johnson had briefed his Cabinet of the plan at a meeting earlier, highlighting the number one legislative priority as Brexit. If a new deal is forthcoming at the European Council in mid-October, he will then introduce a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and ‘move at pace’ to secure its passage before October 31.
“I believe it is vital that Parliament is sitting both before and after European Council and if, as I hope, a deal with the EU is forthcoming, Parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill required for ratification ahead of 31 October,” Johnson said in a statement.
“We must focus on crucial public priorities…We have made an important start…but to deliver on the public’s priorities we require a new session and a Queen’s Speech,” he said.
Downing Street said the decision to end the current parliamentary session, which is ‘the longest in close to 400 years and in recent months one of the least active’, will enable Johnson to put a fresh domestic programme in front of MPs for debate and scrutiny while also ensuring that there is good time before and after the European Council, scheduled for October 17 and 18 — for Parliament to further consider Brexit issues.
Crucial voting on legislation is likely to fall on October 21 and 22.
The Downing Street statement followed unconfirmed media reports earlier of such a plan to prorogue Parliament during September — a month traditionally dedicated to conferences by all major political parties.
According to the timeline being considered, it would lead to a customary Queen’s Speech — which lays out a new UK government’s parliamentary business for the year — on October 14.
It is widely seen as an attempt to block MPs from tabling and debating any other major legislation, including an attempt by the Opposition to prevent a no-deal Brexit by the October 31 deadline.
Parliament returns from summer recess next Monday, and another recess was expected to take place between roughly September 13 and October 8 to cover the political conference season.
There had been hopes that the second break could be shortened to keep business going in the run-up to Brexit.