Prorogation of Parliament leads to UK outrage

prorogation of parliament
© iStock/Alicia_Garcia

A UK petition calling on the government to prevent the prorogation of Parliament has achieved more than a million signatures since its launch on 15 August.

Yesterday, 28 August, the Queen consented to allow UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to prorogue the UK parliament, suspending parliamentary proceedings from mid-September to 14 October, just over two weeks before the UK is set to leave the EU. MPs and civilians have reacted with outrage, with spontaneous protests taking place around the UK last night and MPs threatening to occupy the House of Commons in the face of prorogation of Parliament: Labour’s Shadow Treasury Minister for Sustainable Economics Clive Lewis said on Twitter: “If Boris shuts down Parliament to carry out his No-Deal Brexit, I and other MPs will defend democracy. The police will have to remove us from the chamber. We will call on people to take to the streets. We will call an extraordinary session of Parliament.”

A snap poll conducted by public opinion data firm YouGov found that only 27% of UK respondents approved of Johnson’s prorogation of Parliament; while 47% actively opposed the measure. A group of MPs and legal experts headed by the Scottish National Party’s justice spokesperson Joanna Cherry have launched a legal challenge against prorogation in the Scottish Court of Session, arguing that suspending parliamentary process ahead of Brexit would be ‘both unlawful and unconstitutional’. Conservative ministers, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd and Chancellor Sajid Javid, have come under pressure to address comments they had previously made denouncing the idea of proroguing Parliament.

In a statement, Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow said: “I have had no contact from the government, but if the reports that it is seeking to prorogue Parliament are confirmed, this represents a constitutional outrage. 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. At this time, one of the most challenging periods in our nation’s history, it is vital that our elected parliament has its say. After all, we live in a parliamentary democracy.

“Shutting down Parliament would be an offence against the democratic process and the rights of parliamentarians as the people’s elected representatives. Surely at this early stage in his premiership, the prime minister should be seeking to establish rather than undermine his democratic credentials and indeed his commitment to parliamentary democracy.”

The petition against prorogation of Parliament makes the demand: ‘Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.’ At time of publication it has received more than 1.2 million signatures from dissatisfied UK citizens and residents: more than 100,000 signatures on a parliamentary petition guarantee it consideration for a debate in Parliament.

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