29 August, 2019
The British Prime Minister Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson wants to lead Britain to an exit from the European Union without a specific agreement that would regulate the various details. A majority in Parliament is against leaving the EU without a deal.
Parliament will convene again in early September. The Brexit date is October 31. The opposition planned to seek legislation to stop Brexit and/or to hold a vote of no confidence in the Boris government. This would install a new government with the sole task of preventing Brexit without a deal.
The problem is that the process takes time and Parliament days are limited. The government has several means to prevent Parliament from having enough time to discuss the issue and to vote on it. Today it used a quite effective one.
The Johnson government, only inaugurated weeks ago, asked the Queen to announce its legislative program, a ceremonial event known as the Queen's Speech. Custom demands that Parliament is shut down for several weeks before the Queen's Speech is held. Parliament will thus have little chance to prevent a no-deal Brexit:
The government has asked the Queen to suspend Parliament just days after MPs return to work in September - and only a few weeks before the Brexit deadline.
Boris Johnson said a Queen's Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his "very exciting agenda".
But it means MPs are unlikely to have time to pass laws to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Tory backbencher Dominic Grieve called the move "an outrageous act".
The Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow is not amused about the unexpected move. Many members of Parliament will, like Dominic Grieve, be against this power grab.
Unfortunately there is little they can do:
A number of high profile figures, including former Prime Minister John Major, have threatened to go to the courts to stop it, and a legal challenge led by the SNP's justice spokeswoman, Joanna Cherry, is already working its way through the Scottish courts.
Britain has no written constitution. The courts rule along precedence and the government would thereby likely win the case:
BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said the precedent was for Parliament to be suspended before a Queen's Speech, and it would be "impossible" for the Queen to reject the government's request to do so now.
He said that convention lifted the pressure off the Queen and to some degree, in some people's eyes, depoliticises it.
"The fundamental is the Queen acts on the advice of her ministers - in particular, on the advice of her prime minister," he added.
Laura Kuenssberg said only a small number of government ministers knew about the plan in advance, but the government would argue it was "a bog standard Queen's Speech process", despite all of the surrounding noise.
In a letter to the Members of Parliament Johnson only allows for one day, September 9, for a Parliament sitting.
The prime minister, not elected through a general election, is essentially making a power grab. Closing down Parliament at the moment when the most significant decision on the future of the country is at stake is a deeply undemocratic move.
Britain is on its way to falling apart.