On Wednesday, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked and received permission from Queen Elizabeth to prorogue — suspend — parliament from sitting as he prepares a new session to lay out his legislative agenda. While prorogations are within his remit, both the length of the suspension and its timing have led to howls of outrage and protest across Britain.
Remainers are calling the PM’s move a power grab or legislative coup, while the Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow called it a “constitutional outrage”. Brexiteers are sticking to the Conservative party line that Johnson, as a new leader of the nation, needs time to establish his own agenda and set the UK, which is due to leave the European Union come October 31, on a new path.
Firstly, Johnson is acting within his powers in asking the queen for a prorogation. What’s more, such a move is not unusual given that he has already laid down the key areas where his government will direct its focus and action, and the UK is entering a new phase outside the EU, be that with or without a deal.
Johnson’s move is deliberately meant to curtail debate — if only to focus the House of Commons on coming up with a clear plan on the issue
Secondly, the suspension of parliament is included in the timeframe now. The reality too is that parliament traditionally doesn’t sit on Fridays. In effect, while the five-week prorogation seems like a lot, there are effectively between six and nine days removed from debating schedule.
Timing, of course, is everything. With MPs deeply divided over Brexit, over how or indeed if that at all should take place, the debating time would have been used to thrash out the most pressing of issues. Johnson’s move is deliberately meant to curtail debate — if only to focus the House of Commons on coming up with a clear plan on the issue. So far, after months of endless motions, it has yet to set a clear path or come up with a cohesive plan on how to move forward.
It appears that Johnson may have no clear vision on how to move forward. He says the UK will leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal. He has now thrown the gauntlet down, forcing parliament to act, pass or reject the Withdrawal Agreement, force a general election, or quickly legislate some other course of action.
The political paralysis in the UK has gone on for long enough. This needs to be settled one way or another. Johnson has forced a decision.