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British Democracy Plunged into Constitutional Crisis as Johnson Government Prorogues U.K Parliament

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Image Credit: Maurice (Zoetermeer, Netherlands)

It was announced this afternoon that parliament will now be suspended just days after MP’s return from the summer recess in September and will not return until after the Queen’s parliamentary speech on 14th October. Three Conservative members of the Queen’s privy Council Jacob Rees Mogg (Leaders of the house of commons), Baroness Evans of Bowles Park (Leader of the house of Lords) and Mark Spencer (Chief Whip), took the prime ministers request to the monarch’s Scottish residence in Balmoral on Wednesday morning where it was now been approved allowing the government to prorogue parliament no earlier than Monday 9th September and no later than Thursday 12th September. However as the parliamentary recess does not end until Tuesday 3rd September this in effect means that if Johnson chooses to suspend parliament at the earliest date MP’s will be sitting for just five days until the 14th October and just sixteen days until the crucial no deal deadline of the 31st October. This of course means that the time MP’s in opposition to a no deal departure from the E.U has now been drastically cut plunging the U.K into what the speaker of the house John Bercow has termed a “constitutional outrage”.

While the suspension of parliament legally known as prorogation may seem unconstitutional there is a legal precedent that the queen may suspend parliament under the advice of the prime minister. The practice occurs every year in fact, around October when parliament in suspended for the Queen’s Speech in which she establishes the parliamentary business for the year ahead. However the suspension of parliament for 23 days is unprecedented as opponents say it is a deliberate premeditated attempt to stop MP’s being able to perform their elected democratic duties in the Brexit process. Several high profile political figures have threatened to go to the judiciary in order to block the decision,
perhaps most notably the former conservative prime minister Sir John Major, who commented after this mornings announcement that he had "no doubt" Mr Johnson's
motive was to "bypass a sovereign Parliament that opposes his policy on Brexit", and he would continue to seek legal advice. Any legal challenge mounted however would not be directly to the queen’s exercise of power as it is “her majesty’s government” in name only, she is merely expected to except the advice of her ministers. However BBC legal affairs correspondent Clive Coleman said a judicial review could be launched into the advice given to her by the prime minister to determine whether that
advice was lawful.

However reportedly with parliament scheduled to be suspended on the 10th September this  gives opposition mp’s just five days to block the propagation of parliament. At a
meeting of the opposition leaders on Tuesday hosted by the opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, opposition leaders opted to take control of the parliamentary timetable
in September in order to introduced legislation aimed at blocking a no deal departure on the 31st October. However with the possibility of Parliament being suspended from as early 10th September, the more likely course of action will be a vote of no confidence in the government being called as early as next Tuesday. Senior Tory back bencher and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve is one Conservative in favour of the move to a vote of no confidence this morning saying "There is plenty of time to do that if necessary and I will certainly vote to bring down a Conservative government that persists in a course of action which is so unconstitutional". While the first minister of Scotland Nichola Sturgeon said, "MPs must come together to stop the plan next week, or "today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy".

Johnson has however dismissed accusations that the move is a deliberate act of provocation designed to prevent opposition mp’s from legislating against a no deal
departure on the 31st of October, instead saying that the move is being taken to establish “the significant legislative programme ahead for his government in the next parliamentary session”, he further added that a longer propagation is necessary as the current parliament has been sitting since June 2017 and therefore a longer suspension is needed in order for his government to establish its domestic policy for the parliamentary sitting ahead. While it is true that parliament is prorogued for a few days between sittings to allow governments to lay out the frame work of their domestic policy, a suspension of 23 days during the greatest political crisis in British history is blatant and obvious attempt to undermine the sovereignty of our parliamentary democracy. The etymology of prorogation itself derives from the Latin prorogare which literally means “to ask
publicly”, however there is nothing public about this decision in the slightest.

The PM wants to leave the EU on 31st October “deal or no deal”, “do or die” and today he has demonstrated that desire in its entirety, yes I respect the
democratic outcome of the 2016 E.U referendum, not because I want to leave the E.U, but because on the 23rd June 2016 33,577,342 people were asked “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” and 51.89% said yes. This was the mandate of the people and under the basic idea of democracy it should be respected. But we now find ourselves in a situation where our parliamentary sovereignty is being undermined in order to end the undermining of our parliamentary sovereignty. I myself do not possess the words to describe the current political climate of our nation, so I will instead just quote the American novelist H.P Lovecraft “from even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent”.

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