Boris Johnson accused of 'constitutional outrage' for plan to suspend Parliament to block no-deal Brexit revolt

Boris Johnson has been accused of a “constitutional outrage” after he confirmed he will suspend Parliament in September in an apparent effort to block a no-deal Brexit revolt among MPs.

The Queen has approved an order from the Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament from mid September until October 14, when there will be a Queen’s Speech to open a new session of Parliament.

The move reduces the window of opportunity for rebel MPs seeking to block a no-deal Brexit to act.

Commons Speaker John Bercow - who has repeatedly angered Tory MPs over his approach to Brexit matters in the Commons - interrupted his holiday to launch a tirade against the Prime Minister, calling his actions a "constitutional outrage".

Mr Bercow said: "However it is dressed up, it is 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.”

Opposition leaders led by Jeremy Corbyn agreed at a meeting on Tuesday to use the moment when Parliament returns from its summer break on September 3 to work together on a new law to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly promised to take the UK out of the European Union on October 31, with or without a deal.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson making a statement in which he said that it is "completely untrue" he will be holding a Queen's Speech on October 14 because of Brexit (Picture: BBC/PA)

Mr 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."

But the Prime Minister said it was "completely untrue" to suggest that Brexit was the reason for his decision, insisting that he needed a Queen's Speech to set out a "very exciting agenda" of domestic policy.

The move would also allow him to bring forward legislation for a new Withdrawal Agreement if a deal can be done with Brussels around the time of the European Council summit on October 17.

"There will be ample time on both sides of that crucial October 17 summit, ample time in Parliament for MPs to debate the EU, to debate Brexit, and all the other issues," Mr Johnson said.

Asked whether the move was because he was planning a general election before the end of the year, Mr Johnson said: "No, what you should take from this is we are doing exactly what I said on the steps of Downing Street which is that we must get on now with our legislative domestic agenda."

The Commons was expected to sit in the first two weeks of September and then break for the conference recess - although opposition MPs had been planning to vote against leaving Westminster for the autumn party gatherings in late September and early October to allow more time to consider Brexit.

A letter written by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to MPs outlining his Government's plans (Picture: PA)

Mr Johnson's move will now ensure that the Commons is not sitting during the period and MPs will return on the day of the Queen's Speech.

Prominent figures on the Conservative benches were quick to express their deep concern about the approach Mr Johnson was taking.

Former chancellor Philip Hammond said: "It would be a constitutional outrage if Parliament were prevented from holding the Government to account at a time of national crisis. Profoundly undemocratic."

Ex-justice secretary David Gauke said it was a "a dangerous precedent".

The timetable for the Queen's Speech is expected to be confirmed at a meeting of the Privy Council at Balmoral.

MPs who oppose no deal are unlikely to have time to pass laws that could prevent Mr Johnson taking Britain out of the EU under any circumstances on October 31.

A Brexit showdown in the Commons next week is likely as rebels try to grab their final chance to influence Mr Johnson’s Brexit plans.

After cross-party talks led by Labour's Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday, a group of MPs pledged to thwart Mr Johnson’s plans by passing new legislation when the Commons returns from its summer break next week.

In a letter to MPs outlining his government's plans, Mr Johnson 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."

(left to right) Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Kier Starmer, shadow leader of the House of Commons Valerie Vaz, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell, met MPs from across all parties to discuss stopping a no-deal Brexit on Tuesday (Picture: PA)

But if Parliament is suspended on September 10 as the government plans, they will only have days to mount a challenge.


House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, commenting on the move to prorogue Parliament in preparation for a Queen's speech on October 14, said: "I have had no contact from the government, but if the reports that it is seeking to prorogue Parliament are confirmed, this move represents a constitutional outrage.”

Tory MP and Remain campaigner Dominic Grieve said it was ”an outrageous act”.

(Picture: PA)

He warned it could lead to a vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson.

"This government will come down,” he said.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson called the move ‘utterly scandalous’ and Scotland First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted: "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."

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Boris Johnson with the Queen last month as he became Prime Minister (Picture: PA)

Conservative Party chairman James Cleverly defended Mr Johnson, tweeting: "Or to put it another way: Government to hold a Queen's Speech, just as all new governments do."

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