Surprise move as Prime Minister to suspend parliament for five weeks

Friday, August 30th, 2019 12:00 |
Anti-Brexit demonstrators take part in a protest march from Britain’s House of Parliament to Downing Street in London. Photo/PD/AFP

London, Thursday

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s suspension of parliament just weeks before Britain’s EU departure date faced legal challenges on Thursday following a furious outcry from pro-Europeans and MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson announced the surprise decision Wednesday to dismiss parliament — known as proroguing — next month for nearly five weeks, claiming it was necessary to allow him to press reset and pursue a “bold and ambitious” new post-Brexit domestic agenda.

But the move sent shockwaves through the British political system, which relies on centuries of precedents and conventions instead of a codified constitution.

In a blow for Johnson, popular Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson stepped down after eight years during which she has revived her party’s fortunes.

Davidson, who supported staying in the EU, urged Johnson to clinch a deal with Brussels and mentioned the “conflict I have felt over Brexit” in her resignation letter.

Johnson’s opponents have labelled the suspension of parliament a “coup” and a “constitutional outrage”.

The move prompted immediate court bids in London, Edinburgh and Belfast to halt the process. Gina Miller, a businesswoman and leading anti-Brexit campaigner, has applied for an urgent judicial review in London challenging “the effect and the intention” of the suspension.

“We think that this request is illegal,” said Miller, who in 2017 successfully won MPs the right to vote on formally starting to leave the EU in a court challenge.

In Scotland’s highest civil court, 75 parliamentarians are seeking an interim interdict that would halt Johnson’s move.

“It’s the advice underlying yesterday’s order which we impugn,” said Scottish National Party politician Joanna Cherry, who is heading the push.

Meanwhile, campaigner Raymond McCord launched a legal bid in Belfast to block Johnson’s move, with a hearing set for Friday. “He’s obviously trying to circumvent parliament and we say in the context of Northern Ireland that is unconstitutional,” McCord’s lawyer Ciaran O’Hare told AFP.

However, arch-Brexiteer minister Jacob Rees-Mogg defended the parliamentary suspension and insisted MPs would still have time to debate Brexit ahead of Britain’s October 31 EU departure date.

“The candyfloss of outrage, which is almost entirely confected, is from people who never wanted to leave the European Union,” he told BBC radio.

Thousands of people protested in London, Manchester, Edinburgh and other cities, while an online petition seeking to block the decision had garnered more than 1.4 million signatures on Thursday. –AFP

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