Boris Johnson is going to prorogue parliament

In his drive to prevent the UK parliament from blocking his attempts to take the UK out of the EU even with no deal, prime minister Boris Johnson has formally asked the Queen to prorogue (i.e., suspend) parliament for five weeks from mid-September. As a constitutional monarch, she had to acquiesce to his ‘request’, disappointing those who fantasized that she might instead ask the royal footman to throw him out on his ear.

Parliament will thus resume on October 14 with the traditional ‘throne speech’, the government’s plan of action for the coming year which the Queen usually reads with all her regalia. All this pomp and ceremony seems a little out of place given the nature of the Brexit crisis but it seems to be part of his plan to run out the clock on the Brexit deadline of October 31.

So what are the options for those who view a no-deal Brexit with horror? Not many, it seems.

The effect of the decision will be to curtail the time MPs have to introduce legislation or other measures aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit – and increase the pressure on Jeremy Corbyn to table a vote of no confidence next week.

If Johnson lost that vote, there would then be a 14-day period in which the Labour party leader, or an alternative candidate, could seek to assemble a majority. If no new government emerges, a general election would have to be held.

But government sources insist Johnson is determined not to go to the polls before Britain is due to leave the EU. “We have been very clear that if there’s a no-confidence vote, he won’t resign. We get to set an election date. We don’t want an election, but if we have to set a date, it’s going to be after 31 October,” said a senior government source.

As has often been the case with Brexit, one needs a flowchart to understand the process and the Guardian duly obliges.

Got that?

It seems to me that, especially since the Conservative MPs who want to stop Johnson are not willing to do anything that might result in Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister, a no-deal Brexit is inevitable. They may hate the idea of a no-deal Brexit but they hate the idea of Corbyn becoming prime minister more.

It seems a very short sighted attitude since Brexit would be permanent but a Corbyn prime ministership would be temporary.

Jonathan Pie gives his take on Johnson’s latest move.


  1. unit000 says

    I’m not long back from Westminster -- blocked off Parliament Square and Westminster Bridge. You shut down the Parliament, we shut down the streets. There will be further, ongoing protests.
    There was a real cross-section of Londoners there, all filled with righteous anger. Unlike some other demonstrations, no-one could have marvelled at the Whiteness of this one.
    I’m generally pessimistic, but it does feel a little like Johnson may have overplayed his hand. Afair number of Tories are very unhappy with him.

  2. file thirteen says

    AB de PJ gambles his prime ministership and forces JC’s hand. If JC doesn’t call a no-confidence vote on September 3 then regardless of what happens next, history will not be kind to him. If AB de PJ’s gamble succeeds then a Halloween Brexit is certain, deal or no deal.

  3. EigenSprocketUK says

    On the tiff over who’d be temporary Prime Minister in a temporary government (the middle of the flow chart), many are pointing out that the very notion of Jeremy Corbyn being PM is a step too far, and that might scupper the possibility of getting a temporary government together – for which they only have 14 days, otherwise it’s back to square one.
    Then there are those who insist that only Corbyn as PM is acceptable. It’s the official opposition party’s rules and all that, you see. Plus he has a burning sense of expectation that it’s rightfully his even after decades of ignoring the same party’s rules when it suited him.
    I’d be quite happy with a racist antisemite as temporary PM of a single-issue govt if it gets a calamitous no-deal Brexit stopped.
    Not because a little bit of grandpa’s racism is an ‘acceptable price’, of course, but because otherwise we continue with the existing racist incompetent in post buoyed up by emboldened racists in the streets anyway.

  4. EigenSprocketUK says

    Also, @unit000, thank you to you and yours for going and for causing a good stir. Wish I could have been there.

    All I could do was sign the petition which has garnered a record-breaking million signatures from Brits and UK residents in half a day. Any Brits or UK residents who haven’t signed, confirmed, and told all their friends about it, go do it now. Then write to your MP.

  5. unit000 says

    There’s another one planned for Saturday, and I suspect there will be other, smaller ones every day between now and then. I’m not bothering with my MP, who is a Labour Brexiteer. Ugh.

  6. Jazzlet says

    My thanks too unitooo, I’m in Manchester, and anyway not well enough to go on a march damn it.

    My MP is a lickspittle Tory child who just regurgitates the Party Line, a complete waste of space and as much as I dislike the Lib Dems I may even vote for them to get rid of him whenever the election is as I’m in a Lib Dem/Tory marginal.

  7. fentex says

    I think this is a load of nonsense -- the UK parliament has had three years to manage this and they haven’t.

    They have three choices: No deal (the default if none other), the negotiated deal (Europe has stopped negotiating) or rescinding Brexit.

    Parliament has consistently refused the negotiated deal.

    There is no majority for rescinding Brexit.

    No deal is the default with a hard deadline the EU has made clear will not be extended on Oct 31.

    While Johnson is being a prick he really isn’t making much of a difference to events -- parliament hasn’t done a damn thing in three years and there’s no reason to expect it to at the eleventh hour. Johnson has merely shrunk the window of time for them to waste.

    And it’s easy for parliament to prove me (and anyone else wrong) by being decisive at their next opportunity. Which they won’t be.

  8. blf says

    fentex@10, Yes-and-no, excepting a previous excerpt (of In game of Brexit chicken, Boris Johnson driving a Mini, Brussels is driving a bus):

    The root of the problem is well-known to political scientists. It’s a voting cycle. Option A is beaten by B. Option B is beaten by C. But then option C is beaten by A. And so the cycle continues. Every option is opposed by a majority. Simply putting things to a vote, no matter how many times, can’t solve this.

    The Brexit voting cycle is plain to see. The referendum result was 52% for leave and 48% for remain. But the “leave” option was so vague that it in effect combined at least two options. One option is to leave but only with a negotiated deal.

    The other is to walk away with no deal. This was a fatal flaw in Cameron’s referendum process.

    Many leave voters were voting for different things. We’ll never know how many leave voters were in each camp, but it’s safe to say that each contained more than 2% of voters. So, while there was no majority for remain, there was no majority for leaving with a deal and no majority for a no-deal Brexit.

    That left British politics in a voting cycle, reflected in a parliamentary arithmetic that is unlikely to change with a new election. Remain is beaten by the combined majority of those wanting a deal and those wanting no deal.

    Deal is beaten by the combined majority of those wanting remain and those wanting no deal. No deal is beaten by the combined majority of those wanting remain and those wanting a deal. This is why the House of Commons can’t vote itself out of the Brexit crisis.

  9. fentex says

    Well, yes blf -- we can all see the problem is a confluence of events, opinions and pressures that creates this problem.

    Which can only be resolved by either some people compromising their position or enacting the default -- Johnson is trying to rush to the default and can only be stopped by some compromising their position to achieve a different, decisive result.

    The problem is, and what stirred my original point: the UK parliament has had three years to manage this and they haven’t.

    I keep seeing people talking about parliament preventing a No Deal Brexit but it has done nothing that should give anyone any hope that it will -- people keep seeming to think it has other options than the three I described and it does not.

    The UK parliament has three simple, distinct choices AND NO OTHERS. If they’re going to pick one other than No Deal they can still do it no matter what Johnson’s opinion is -- if they can’t then it hardly matters that they won’t be in session for a month.

  10. ColeYote says

    Is Theresa May still concerned that not leaving the EU would damage people’s faith in the system?

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