London — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Wednesday that a usual suspension of parliament would be extended until October 14, just two weeks before the U.K. is set to leave the European Union. The move enraged lawmakers, including many from Johnson’s own Conservative Party, who will have far less time to try and stop him delivering a “Brexit” without any agreement in place with the EU.
MPs will return to London later than in recent years, giving pro-EU lawmakers less time than expected to thwart Johnson’s Brexit plans before the U.K. is due to leave the bloc on October 31.Johnson insisted it was normal procedure, aimed entirely at giving his government time to prepare a new domestic agenda and not at ram-rodding his Brexit plans past a Parliament that largely rejects the prospect of a potentially damaging “no-deal” exit from the EU.
Johnson said even with the extended “prorogation,” lawmakers would have “ample time” to debate the path out of the European Union. It’s a calculated gamble by Johnson, a prime minister who was elected to the office by only about 160,000 members of his own party after a leadership crisis, spawned by internal divisions over Brexit. He consistently claims to have the backing of a majority of Britons, pointing to the result of the 2016 public referendum in which Brits voted to leave the EU. But many say a no-deal Brexit was never the outcome offered up by the “Leave” campaign, for which Johnson was a frontman. With Parliament now set to be suspended from September 10 until October 14, pro-EU lawmakers and those who want to leave the union but only with an agreement for the divorce in place, will have just a handful of days to try and thwart Johnson. They could do so either by passing legislation to block a no-deal Brexit, or by unseating Johnson with a vote of no-confidence in his government.The British pound slumped almost one percent on the news Wednesday, with markets fearing the economic impact of an increasingly-likely no-deal Brexit.”Profoundly undemocratic”?Johnson and fellow Brexit hardliners in Parliament insisted the extended suspension was nothing to do with the EU departure, and spoke of it as business as usual. Indeed Parliament is always suspended in the days or even weeks ahead of the queen giving a formal speech laying out the government’s agenda. Johnson scheduled that speech for October 14 on Wednesday, but the “prorogation” or suspension of the legislature he scheduled ahead of that date is longer than usual, and will come as the U.K. is locked in a crisis over Brexit. Johnson’s opponents say that makes it more important than ever for lawmakers to be at work, carrying out its constitutional duty to oversee the executive branch’s actions.Only a handful of Johnson’s closest advisers and cabinet members were aware of his plans before they became public on Wednesday, and members of his own party were among those to express their anger.