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Johnson to shut down Westminster ahead of Brexit deadline

Boris Johnson and Ian Blackford

Commons business will be suspended

Boris Johnson is expected to go ahead with plans to suspend the Westminster Parliament just weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Mr Johnson wants to shut down government on 10 September, days after MPs return, and have the government’s plans outlined in a Queen’s Speech on 14 October.

Parliament returns from its summer break on 3 September and had been expected to sit for two weeks before breaking up again to allow political parties to hold their annual conferences. Typically it begins sitting again in early October.

The shutdown means MPs are unlikely to have time to pass any laws that could stop the Prime Minister taking the UK out of the EU without a deal on 31 October.

A No 10 source said: “It’s time a new government and new PM set out a plan for the country after we leave the EU.”

See also: Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson expected to resign

The idea of shutting down Parliament – known as prorogation – has caused controversy, with critics saying it would stop MPs being able to play their democratic part in the Brexit process.

Mr Johnson says he wants to leave the EU with a deal, but he is willing to leave without one rather than miss the deadline.

Asked in a broadcast interview if he was trying to block politicians from delaying Britain’s departure from the EU, he replied: “That is completely untrue. There will be ample time on both sides of that crucial October 17 [European Union leaders’] summit, ample time in parliament for MPs to debate the EU, to debate Brexit and all the other issues, ample time.”

However, his move provoked a backlash across Westminster. Commons speaker John Bercow said the move was a “constitutional outrage” designed to stop lawmakers debating Brexit.

A number of opposition MPs are now trying to block a possible no deal, and on Tuesday announced that they intended to use parliamentary process to do so.

Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter: “So it seems that Boris Johnson may actually be about to shut down Parliament to force through a no deal Brexit. Unless MPs come together to stop him next week, today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy.”

Former Attorney General Tory and Remain campaigner Dominic Grieve called it “an outrageous act”, and warned it could lead to a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson, adding: “This government will come down.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, said “I am appalled at the recklessness of Johnson’s government, which talks about sovereignty and yet is seeking to suspend parliament to avoid scrutiny of its plans for a reckless No Deal Brexit. This is an outrage and a threat to our democracy.  

“That is why Labour has been working across Parliament to hold this reckless government to account, and prevent a disastrous No Deal which parliament has already ruled out.

“If Johnson has confidence in his plans he should put them to the people in a general election or public vote.”

The move comes amid growing speculation of a snap general election which intensified after Chancellor Sajid Javid brought forward his spending plans to next week.

The news sent the pound down sharply as the prospect of No Deal intensified. Sterling lost around a cent against the US dollar and the euro.

Legal bid to halt suspension

A motion has been submitted to the Court of Session in Edinburgh to block the Prime Minister’s request that Parliament be suspended.

The legal action is being taken by a cross-party group of more than 70 MPs and peers, with the support of the Good Law Project.

Petitioner Ian Murray, Labour MP for Edinburgh South, said:
“Boris Johnson’s plan to suspend Parliament is an assault on our democracy. This is the people’s parliament, and the people deserve to have their representatives in Parliament during this vital period.

“Legal action to prevent the Prime Minister suspending Parliament has already been fast-tracked through the courts and we are now seeking an emergency hearing to prevent this undemocratic action.

“A no-deal Brexit would be catastrophic for Scotland and the UK, and we will do everything we can to stop Boris Johnson inflicting such hardship on the people. The final say on Brexit should be handed back to the people.”

Alister Jack’s car ‘in hiding’

Tories in denial

The situation was coming close to descending into farce as Scottish Secretary Alister Jack cancelled a photocall and a prearranged interview with STV and another TV crew was forced to follow him around the back of his office when his car was diverted down a lane to avoid the cameras.

The SNP has called on the Scottish Tories to make clear whether or not they will support cross-party efforts to block Mr Johnson’s plan.

The Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson reportedly refused to do any interviews following the Prime Minister’s plans and refused to comment on the move to prorogue Parliament. It later emerged that she was considering her position and will make a statement tomorrow.

See also:

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson expected to resign

Will Donald Trump and a German recession save Boris’s Brexit hopes?

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