28 Aug 2019

Boris Johnson asks Queen to suspend Parliament

Political Editor

A new government has announced a Queen’s Speech to unveil its legislative programme. Nothing odd there, No 10 says.

Oh yes there is.

It means Parliament doesn’t sit when opposition MPs desperately need sitting days to mount their attempt to stop a No Deal Brexit. A conventional pause before a new Queen’s Speech is being used in a very unconventional way. A Queen’s Speech means days of debate on the government measures take precedence. It means that the whole period between 11 September and 21 October becomes what Joe Owen of the Institute for Government has called, “a dead zone” for anti-No Dealers. This is a bold and extraordinary tactic to make sure that Britain leaves the EU on October 31st. The Lib Dems have called it a “declaration of war.”

But the team at No. 10 led by Dominic Cummings think they have devised a plan that is bomb proofed from all opposition attempts to stop it. It is a political war they think they will win.

If the government does get away with the attempt to suspend Parliament and thereby prevent the opposition forces trying to stop a No Deal Brexit, it’s game over.

But even if the opposition forces do manage to rally and block the government’s efforts by passing their own bill (at breakneck speed before 11th September) that could give Boris Johnson the casus belli for calling a general election.

He could use the provisions of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act to call a general election with the support of two thirds of MPs. His “no deal” credentials might rally former Brexit Party supporters to his side in sufficient numbers to give him victory even though he wouldn’t have delivered Brexit.

Yesterday, Nigel Farage suggested he wouldn’t back a Tory Party with a non-aggression pact in such circumstances. If the Tories went down this route they’d be calculating Mr Farage isn’t going to stick to that plan or is not going to be able to hold on to all his support. Boris Johnson’s Tories are already eating into his support.

Some forces involved in yesterday’s meeting with Mr Corbyn think he is committed to opposing a two thirds vote collapsing the government and calling a general election, unless a delay is attached to the Brexit date.

The government is insisting that it remains committed to securing a deal with the EU that removes the Backstop. But it is notable that its new plans give it hardly any time to pass such a bill: 8 days to pass a treaty of some complexity into law would be pretty unprecedented.

Amidst much uncertainty there is one thing that we can be pretty sure about – the Queen will not be enjoying this moment. A long reign ducking from political controversy, an aversion to seeing her nation divided, and her summer holiday in Scotland brutally interrupted by a constitutional and political moment that promises both.