Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Boris Johnson suspends parliament as Brexit pressure intensifies

10 Downing Street announced the suspension as Mr Johnson held Brexit talks in Dublin

Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak to the media at Government Buildings on September 9, 2019 in Dublin. Getty Images
Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak to the media at Government Buildings on September 9, 2019 in Dublin. Getty Images

British prime minister Boris Johnson has pushed ahead with the suspension of UK parliament despite denunciations from the political opposition ranged against him.

In the latest twist on the parliamentary chess board, John Bercow, the Speaker of the Commons, announced his decision to retire from the sensitive post. He said if a vote was passed to trigger an early general election, he would stand down.

In the event there is no general election triggered, Mr Bercow said he would quit the chair on October 31. Mr Bercow has been an interventionist speaker who has allowed backbenchers much greater scope to challenge the government.

His decision to allow MPs to vote on taking control of the order paper saw the parliament pass a bill that outlawed a no-deal Brexit, the government’s flagship policy.

The prime minister’s controversial prorogation of parliament was to go ahead Monday sending MPs away on a five-week recess.

At the same time mixed messages emerged from the PM’s office over whether the government would abide by legislation asking Brussels for an extension on Brexit negotiations.

The cross-party legislation was passed into law through royal assent also on Monday. The law obliges the PM to request an extension to Brexit until January 31 unless a deal or a no-deal exit from the EU is voted through parliament by 19 October.

"The Government will obey the law but the prime minister will not be asking for an extension," a spokesman for 10 Downing Street said. "The Prime Minister's Government will not be extending the Article 50 process. We will be leaving on October 31," he added.

Before the shutdown, Parliament also considered motion on seizing all government communications discussing the prorogation.

Mr Johnson was headed for defeat for the second time in his calls for snap general election.

We cannot agree to the replacement of a legal guarantee with a promise

Leo Varadkar

Number 10 has remained unequivocal saying MPs should vote for elections and allow the public decide Britain’s Brexit future.

The UK’s opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn has accused Mr Johnson of “running away from questions” and called the suspension of parliament a “disgrace”.

The leader of the Liberal Democrat party Jo Swinson has tweeted that the anti-no deal alliance would continue to oppose calls for elections.

“We will not support an election until Article 50 has been extended. Other opposition leaders have confirmed the same in cross-party meeting this morning,” Ms Swinson wrote referring to the article which triggered Britain’s departure from the EU.

As Westminster seethed, Mr Johnson said at a meeting with his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar in Dublin that he was “undaunted” by political manoeuvres in the capital.

In Dublin Mr Johnson reaffirmed his stated ambition to achieve a new deal for Britain to leave the EU and reiterated his commitment that Britain would leave the European Union on the October 31.

“I want to find a deal. I want to get a deal. Like you I have looked carefully at a no deal,” the British Prime Minister said. “Yes, of course, we could do it but be in no doubt that would be a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible,” he added.

Mr Johnson also reaffirmed Britain’s “unshakeable” commitment to the Good Friday agreement which brought an end to sectarian violence in Northern Ireland and said he would ensure unchecked movement on the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

For his part, Mr Varadkar welcomed the British prime minister as a “friend and an ally” but said he did not expect an immediate breakthrough on Brexit with the UK. Mr Johnson also stressed that he did not expect to leave Dublin with an agreement on Monday.

The Irish leader said the Brexit deal hammered out by Mr Johnson’s predecessor Theresa May remained the best way of avoiding a no-deal Brexit. “We cannot agree to the replacement of a legal guarantee with a promise,” Mr Varadkar said.

He added that Ireland was open to hearing different arrangements to resolve the thorny issue of the Northern Irish backstop but explained he had not “received a viable alternative”.

The Republic of Ireland, which sits on the opposite side of the UK’s only overland border, is expected to take the brunt of post-Brexit economic disruption outside of Britain.

A renegotiation of the Northern Irish backstop has become the linchpin of Mr Johnson’s stated ambition of securing a deal for Britain to leave the EU.

At the close of Mr Johnson’s discussions with the Irish prime minister the pair issued a joint statement indicating the discussions had been constructive but ultimately inconclusive.

Number 10 has said while parliament is suspended that the government’s Brexit negotiations will continue.

With the last two frenetic weeks in Westminster leading to political casualties on both sides, key Brexit player speaker John Bercow has said he will stand down ahead by October 31 if no election is called for before then.

Updated: September 9, 2019 07:42 PM

SHARE

SHARE