Queen Elizabeth has approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament from early September to October 14 — just before the Brexit deadline.
In taking the controversial step of advising the Queen to call a halt to Parliament, Johnson has shortened the amount of time lawmakers have to oppose his no-deal Brexit plans to leave the European Union.
Halting Parliament is known as “proroguing.” It is a power that rests with the Queen, and is carried out on the advice of the prime minister, the BBC explains. But, in doing so, it reduces the influence of Members of Parliament (MPs).
Johnson proposed that Parliament be suspended from early September until October 14, when it would return to hear the Queen’s speech of new legislation and signal a new Parliamentary sitting. Johnson wrote that he wanted the Queen’s speech “to bring forward a new bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit.”
The suspension now only gives MPs opposed to Johnson a couple of weeks before the U.K. is set to leave the EU. (Furthermore, MPs will have only just returned from their summer break on September 3.)
At the moment, the U.K. will leave the EU without a deal. Some of those in favor of leaving want to do so only with a deal, while others hoping to remain in the EU see any delay as a chance to avoid pulling out altogether. Johnson was elected as leader of the Conservative Party and therefore became prime minister on the grounds of leaving on the October 31 date, whatever the outcome of any new talks.
The move to suspend Parliament was met with consternation from opposition MPs and even some within Johnson’s own party. Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn said, “Suspending Parliament is not acceptable, it’s not on. What the prime minister is doing is a smash and grab on our democracy to force through a no deal. Our prime minister needs to be held to account by Parliament. What he is doing is running away from Parliament. We will do absolutely everything we can to stop him.”
Philip Hammond, who, like Johnson, is a member of the Conservative Party and was the Chancellor of the Exchequer under previous Prime Minister Theresa May, called the suspension “profoundly undemocratic.” He tweeted that “It would be a constitutional outrage if Parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national crisis.”
It would be a constitutional outrage if Parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national crisis. Profoundly undemocratic.— Philip Hammond (@PhilipHammondUK) August 28, 2019
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A Privy Council meeting confirming the move is said to have taken place at Balmoral, where the Queen is based during her summer and early autumn break.