Johnson spoke to the Queen on Wednesday to request an end to the current Parliament session in September. The shift would give opposition lawmakers less time to block a no-deal Brexit before the U.K.’s Oct. 31 deadline to leave the EU.
The suspending of Parliament is known as “proroguing” Parliament. When Parliament is prorogued, any motions or questions lawmakers have put forward then lapse until Parliament formally opens again.
“The Prime Minister has briefed Cabinet colleagues that the government will bring forward an ambitious new legislative programme for MPs’ approval, and that the current parliamentary session will be brought to an end,” Downing Street said in a statement prior to the announcement of the Queen’s response. “The Prime Minister has spoken to Her Majesty The Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September. 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.”
Prime Minister Johnson said the suspension of Parliament had nothing to do with blocking scrutiny of his Brexit plans, and was about delivering on his domestic policy agenda.
“To deliver on the public’s priorities we require a new session and a Queen’s Speech,” he said. “Parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill required for ratification ahead of 31 October.”
In a letter circulated to all Members of Parliament, Johnson said that “the Government will take the responsible approach of continuing its preparations for leaving the EU, with or without a deal.”
However, the highly controversial move has dragged the monarch into the Brexit debate for the first time. The last time a British government asked the monarch to suspend Parliament in order to avoid opposition to government policy was 1948, five years before Queen Elizabeth II assumed the throne, according to the Institute for Government.
The leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has asked to meet the Queen to block the move, and vowed to do “everything we can to stop Boris Johnson’s smash and grab against our democracy.” Corbyn has opposed a no-deal Brexit, the default outcome on October 31, as in reality “a Trump-deal Brexit” which would put the UK “at the mercy of the big US corporations.”
President Trump meanwhile has weighed in to back the current prime minister.
“Would be very hard for Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, to seek a no-confidence vote against New Prime Minister Boris Johnson,” the President posted on Twitter. “Especially in light of the fact that Boris is exactly what the U.K. has been looking for, & will prove to be “a great one!” Love U.K.”
It is likely that the Queen, whose powers are almost entirely symbolic, will accept the government’s request. This would give opposition lawmakers under three weeks to scrutinize the government’s Brexit plan.
Prime Minister Johnson has said that the UK will leave the EU on October 31, with or without a deal, despite critics of a no-deal Brexit warning that it would have a disastrous economic impact on the British economy.
The immediate reaction to the news has been one of shock from the majority of lawmakers opposed to the Johnson government.
The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, whose role is to preside over Parliamentary debates, described the move as a “constitutional outrage.”
The leader of the Scottish National Party, Nicola Sturgeon, tweeted that “today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy.”
Anna Soubry, a lawmaker who is in favor of remaining in the EU and is campaigning for a second Brexit referendum, said the move was “outrageous.”
However, James Cleverly, a Conservative lawmaker who serves in the current Johnson government, played down the news. “Put it another way,” he tweeted. “Government to hold a Queen’s Speech, just as all new Governments do.”
Prime Minister Johnson said from Downing Street that, despite the suspension, lawmakers would still have “ample time” on both sides to debate Brexit in the coming weeks.
Opposition lawmakers now have less time to advance a plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit. This could involve a legal challenge to the government through judicial review, as advocated by former prime minister John Major. However, it is more likely that lawmakers will call a no confidence motion in the government which, if successful, would force a general election.