UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to suspend Parliament again
Over a week after its last attempt to suspend Parliament was ruled unlawful, the UK government says it will request that parliament be suspended again.
A statement from Downing Street said the government intends to end the current parliamentary session on October 8. A new session would start six days later on October 14 with a Queen’s Speech, which sets out the government’s legislative agenda.
The planned suspension, which must be approved by the Queen, would be for “the shortest time possible,” the government said.
Last month, the UK Supreme Court unanimously ruled that Johnson’s controversial five-week suspension — or prorogation — of Parliament had been “unlawful, void and of no effect,” meaning the session had technically not ended, prompting lawmakers to return to both chambers.
Johnson’s initial decision to suspend parliament from September 10 until mid-October — just two weeks before the UK is due to leave the European Union — was hugely contentious and would have been the longest prorogation since the Second World War.
The prime minister said he did not agree with the Supreme Court’s verdict.
His latest attempt to prorogue parliament is more in line with previous suspensions. According to the House of Commons Library, the average prorogation since 2010 has been eight days.
In a statement, Johnson said an October 14 Queen’s Speech would allow the government to “set out its plans for the NHS, schools, tackling crime, investing in infrastructure and building a strong economy.”
Suspending parliament on Tuesday night, however, would mean that Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) would not be held next week – a session which normally takes place on Wednesdays to provide lawmakers with an opportunity to question the country’s prime minister.
On the day Johnson gave a keynote speech to party members in Manchester, the government also released its new Brexit proposal.
The document delivered to the EU set out for Northern Ireland to remain in the European single market for goods but leave the customs union, along with the rest of the UK, which would require customs checks.
Johnson claims the proposal is “compatible with maintaining an open border in Northern Ireland,” but said there will need to be a “very small number of physical checks.”
The Irish border is a major sticking point in the Brexit process. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement (or Belfast Agreement) — which helped bring an end to decades of conflict — explicitly prohibits any physical checks at the border between Northern Ireland, which remains part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member.
Following the release of the government’s new proposal, Johnson had telephone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Junker.
Initial responses from EU leaders were lukewarm. Juncker said Johnson’s proposal had “some problematic points” but added that the Commission will “examine the legal text objectively, and in light of our well-known criteria.”
Varadkar, known as the Taoiseach, said in a statement that the proposal did not meet the agreed objectives for the border, but indicated he would study them in further detail and consult with the EU.
“The Taoiseach expects to speak with European Council President Donald Tusk, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and with other EU heads of Government over the coming days,” the statement read.
Guy Verhofstadt, a Member of the European Parliament, said there would be a written statement from the Brexit Steering Group on Thursday, adding that the reaction of the group was not positive.
But there was a more favorable response from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, which is fiercely loyal to the British monarch.
A DUP spokesperson said: “This offer provides a basis for the EU to continue in a serious and sustained engagement with the UK Government without risk to the internal market of the United Kingdom.
“It will require changes to the draft withdrawal treaty and we welcome the fact that all sides now recognise that requirement in order to secure agreement.”