Queen agrees to Boris Johnson's request to suspend parliament over Brexit

Pedro Gonçalves
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Queen agrees to Boris Johnson's request to suspend parliament over Brexit

The Queen has approved Boris Johnson request to suspend parliament from mid-September until just two weeks before the 31 October deadline, which will restrict MPs' ability to block a no-deal Brexit.

Under the government's plan, which has prompted a furious political row, parliament will be prorogued from the week beginning 9 September until 14 October, the BBC first reported.

The royal orders - approved at Balmoral - state that parliament will be prorogued "no earlier than Monday 9th September and no later than Thursday 12th September", meaning that it will retire sometime early the week after next. The statement also confirmed parliament will return in five weeks time on October 14, with a Queen's Speech setting out Johnson's legislative agenda.

What we do know for sure though is that this step will inflict further unnecessary economic damage on an already extremely vulnerable UK economy"

In a letter to MPs outlining his government's plans,  Johnson denied it was to force through a no deal Brexit and said he was bringing forward a "bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda" which MPs would be able to vote on in October.

He said: "This morning I spoke to Her Majesty The Queen to request an end to the current parliamentary session in the second sitting week in September, before commencing the second session of this Parliament with a Queen's Speech on Monday 14 October.

"A central feature of the legislative programme will be the Government's number one legislative priority, if a new deal is forthcoming at EU Council, to introduce a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and move at pace to secure its passage before 31 October.

"I also believe it is vitally important that the key votes associated with the Queen's Speech and any deal with the EU fall at a time when parliamentarians are best placed to judge the Government's programme.

"Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the Government's overall programme, and approach to Brexit, in the run up to EU Council, and then vote on this on 21 and 22 October, once we know the outcome of the Council.

"Should I succeed in agreeing a deal with the EU, Parliament will then have the opportunity to pass the Bill required for ratification of the deal ahead of 31 October."

This means there will be barely any time for parliament to pass legislation blocking a no-deal Brexit if Mr Johnson fails to secure a fresh agreement with the EU.​​

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.

A number of high profile figures, including former prime minister John Major, have threatened to go to the courts to stop it, and a legal challenge led by the SNP's justice spokeswoman, Joanna Cherry, is already working its way through the Scottish courts.

Downing Street has played down the move, highlighting the fact the current session of parliament, which began in June 2017, is the longest since the Civil War.

However, House of Commons Speaker John Bercow claimed it was "blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country".

He called it a "constitutional outrage".

Dominic Grieve, a member of Johnson's ruling Conservative Party, called it "an outrageous act" and warned that it could lead to a no confidence vote. "This government will come down," said Grieve.

Sterling under pressure

The British pound currency fell sharply on the news, recently down almost 1% against the dollar.  

Nigel Green, the CEO of deVere, warns that the move is inflicting unnecessary economic damage on an already vulnerable UK economy.

"It could be argued that Boris Johnson's decision to ask the Queen to suspend parliament, and therefore to prevent democratically elected representatives of the people doing their job, is deeply unconstitutional and has the hallmarks of a tin-pot dictator.

"However, it could also be argued that it is Mr Johnson fulfilling, one way or another, the will of the British people who voted to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

"It is likely to be a tactic to spook negotiators into making concessions to the Withdrawal Agreement.  Whether it will work remains to be seen.  It will almost certainly be challenged in the courts."

He continues: "What we do know for sure though is that this step will inflict further unnecessary economic damage on an already extremely vulnerable UK economy.

"Depressingly, a recession is looming for Britain and Johnson's highly controversial tactics seriously increase the uncertainty which will further drag on investment and trade.

"In addition, it will further batter the beleaguered pound, which reduces people's purchasing power. Weaker sterling means imports are more expensive, with rising prices typically being passed on to consumers."