Today, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson requested the Queen to shut down the country’s Parliament between 9 September and 14 October. The Queen has consented. The move threatens to scupper the Parliament’s efforts to vote against the country leaving the EU with no deal on 31 October.
Politicians from different opposition parties, as well as from the ruling Conservative Party, have reacted strongly to the move. In July, senior Conservative MP Dominic Grieve had said that suspending the Parliament would be the “end of democracy in the UK”.
Clive Lewis, an MP for the Labour Party, said on Twitter that he and other MPs “will defend democracy”. “The police will have to remove us from the chamber. We will call on people to take to the streets”, he added. Tom Brake, Brexit spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said that Boris Johnson’s “declaration of war will be met with an iron fist”.
The First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party, said that shutting down Parliament “is not democracy, it’s dictatorship”. Conservative politicians who have spoken against the move include the former finance minister Philip Hammond, who called it a “constitutional outrage” and “profoundly undemocratic”.
An official citizen petition not to suspend (prorogue) Parliament has gained hundreds of thousands of signatures within hours. Emergency protests for today afternoon have been called in a number of cities, including London and Edinburgh.
In a meeting yesterday, a cross-party group of MPs vowed to create an ‘alternative Parliament’ in the event that the Parliament at Westminster is suspended. More than 200 MPs out of 650 have signed the so-called “Church House Declaration”, promising to “do whatever is necessary to ensure that the people’s voice is able to be heard”.
What happens next?
The UK Parliament will return from its summer recess on 3 September. Yesterday, opposition leaders agreed to seek to block a no-deal Brexit in the first instance by passing legislation, rather than by bringing down the government and installing a new Prime Minister.
As the suspension will start between 9 and 12 September, MPs will only have days to pass such legislation unless they manage to keep the Parliament open. After the Parliament is scheduled to return on 14 October, there will only be two and a half weeks until the Halloween deadline. A European Council summit has already been scheduled for 17 and 18 October.