‘She said yes!’ as delightful as the sentence sounds, this time it spurred furious backlash from people across Britain as the Queen consented prorogation of parliament on Wednesday, requested by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
What is prorogation?
Prorogation simply denotes the end of a parliamentary session. It is the time period between the end of a session and the state opening that is due to begin next session. Parliament is normally prorogued once a year before a Queen’s Speech, to lay out the government’s plans for the next year, however it is normally done for a very short time. It remained closed for only four days in 2014 and 13 working days in 2016. This time around, it will remain closed for 23 working days before the Queen makes her speech on 14th October outlining Johnson’s “exciting agenda”.
Prorogation is often a routine process, during which no debates or votes take place. However, its timing this year is termed highly controversial, charged by political motives to push through a no-deal Brexit. This would leave MPs with a very narrow window to pass laws that could potentially stop a no-deal Brexit scheduled 31st October.
While supporters of the move claim that prorogation is a step towards respecting the 2016 referendum to guarantee UK leaving EU on 31st October, contenders termed it outrageous and an attempt to undermine democracy.
Nicola Sturgeon said that this move would “go down in history as the day UK democracy died” while Jeremy Corbyn tweeted that “Johnson’s attempt to suspend parliament to avoid scrutiny of his plans for a reckless no-deal Brexit is an outrage and a threat to our democracy”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says unless the suspension of Parliament is challenged, “today will go down in history as the day UK democracy died” pic.twitter.com/eQYXzsd7fT
— BBC Scotland News (@BBCScotlandNews) August 28, 2019
In the light of recent events, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson gave her resignation on Thursday. She is known to be a strong opponent of UK leaving the EU without a deal in place. Many believe that her decision was partly influenced by her irreconcilable differences with Boris Johnson and the recent decision of proroguing parliament. In her speech she said:
“There has been a lot that’s been written about my relationship with the prime minister and I went out to Downing Street to meet him last week in a private meeting. I stared him right in the eye. I asked him out: ‘I need to know are you actually trying to get a deal or not?’ And he categorically assured me that he was”.
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonMSP) August 29, 2019
Protests on the street
Suspension of Parliament sparked angry backlash and protests across the country as opponents of a no-deal Brexit took to streets chanting “stop the coup” carrying anti-Brexit placards. A petition in this regard has already crossed more than a million signatures.
According to a poll conducted by YouGov 47% British adults deemed the suspension decision unacceptable, with 27% saying it was acceptable and 27% were unsure. On the contrary, it was supported by 51% of people who voted to Leave.
Johnson’s government in their defence argued that this prorogation is a ‘completely normal procedure’ and that parliament would normally go into recess in September, anyway, still leaving time for MPs to debate Brexit. Moreover, this parliamentary session which began in June,2017 is the longest in almost 400 years.
John Bercow, the house of commons speaker said “We cannot have a situation in which Parliament is shut down. We are a democratic society and Parliament will be heard; I will fight with every breath in my body to stop that happening.”
Furthermore, Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Boris Johnson’s pursuit of a no-deal Brexit will be a disaster for the whole country. He is putting at risk Scottish jobs in manufacturing, food processing and service industries. His intention to suspend Parliament shows he is also a threat to our democracy.”
From the looks of it, it seems that the government is hellbent on committing to the Brexit deadline, no matter what it takes, even if it means tearing up conventions that people hold valuable.
National EU leaders have observed silence so far on the Prime Minister’s decision to suspend parliament. Since it is an internal political matter, it would be tricky for them to intervene into it. Reaction instead came from less influential European politicians. For example, European Parliament’s Brexit coordinator Guy Verhofstadt said, ‘Taking back control’ never looked so sinister.”
Nathalie Loiseau, a French MEP, said: “We could see a Brexit coming without agreement. What disease does British democracy suffer from for fear of debate before making one of the most important decisions in its history.” German MP Franziska Branter said: “‘Take back control’… So, this is what democracy a la Boris Johnson looks like.”
One EU official stated that no matter what happens, the EU was never going to change its position, even if no deal becomes a more credible option or opponents of no deal got better organised.
What happens next?
The struggles between the government and their opponents is believed to continue up to the very last minute.
Parliament suspension will trigger the possibility of an election. If a vote of no confidence is passed, then the fixed term parliament act would kick in, providing a two-week period to form an alternative government that could command a majority prior to a general election. The Institute for Government’s Hannah White stated that “John Bercow will find an opportunity for the House of Commons to consider a motion of no confidence, even if the government does not provide time”.
Donald Trump tweeted in support of Johnson, saying that “It would be very hard” for Mr. Corbyn to seek a no-confidence vote against the PM, “especially in light of the fact that Boris is exactly what the UK has been looking for”.
So, what will the future look like post Brexit? Would MPs be able to successfully stop a no-deal Brexit? Will UK finally leave EU on October 31st? Only time will tell.