U.K. leader to suspend Parliament, limiting time to thwart no-deal Brexit

British opposition legislators reacted with fury Wednesday to news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will seek a suspension of the U.K. Parliament to hamper efforts to quash a no-deal Brexit.

In comments issued Wednesday, Johnson confirmed earlier reports he would hold the Queen’s speech — normally a formality that outlines the legislative agenda — on Oct. 14.

Since Parliament is normally suspended before the speech, the decision means opposition MPs would be unlikely to have enough time to pass laws blocking the U.K.’s exit from the European Union on Oct. 31 without a negotiated deal. 

“So it seems that Boris Johnson may actually be about to shut down Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit,” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon tweeted. “Unless MPs come together to stop him next week, today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for U.K. democracy.”

Another strong condemnation came from the Labour Party’s home affairs spokesperson, Diane Abbott.

‘Aiming for a coup’

“Boris Johnson is aiming for a coup against Parliament. Against you the voters and your political representatives. For a disastrous No Deal,” Abbott said in a tweet. 

Labour MP Dame Margaret Beckett told the BBC that Johnson is “exploiting the Queen” in order to prevent Parliament from stopping a no-deal Brexit.

“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,” Commons Speaker John Bercow told Press Association, adding that it’s a “constitutional outrage.”

Keir Starmer, the Labour Party’s Brexit spokesperson, signs the Church House Declaration during an event in London on Tuesday about opposing the suspension of the U.K. Parliament to prevent no-deal Brexit. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

The pound plunged on the news, down to $ 1.22 US from almost $ 1.23 the previous day.

A day earlier, opposition legislators declared they will work together to try to stop a departure from the European Union without an agreement, setting up a legislative challenge to Johnson and his promise to complete the divorce by Oct. 31— come what may.

Some 160 MPs have signed a declaration pledging “to do whatever is necessary” to prevent Johnson from bypassing Parliament in his plans. Johnson’s do-or-die promise has raised worries about a disorderly divorce that would see new tariffs on trade and border checks between Britain and the EU, seriously disrupting business.

Johnson had refused to rule out suspending Parliament, saying it was up to legislators to carry out the decision of the 2016 referendum to leave the EU and that the public is “yearning for a moment when Brexit comes off the front pages.”

Johnson has told European Union officials it won’t be possible to stop Britain’s departure from the trading bloc without the removal of controversial language about a “backstop” to avoid the return of a border between EU member Ireland and Britain’s Northern Ireland. He said at the close of the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, Monday that he was “marginally more optimistic,” of progress.

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