Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 September 2019

UK parliament suspended amid protests from MPs and scenes of chaos

Before the five-week prorogation the commons delivered Boris Johnson's sixth defeat as prime minister

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduces his motion for an early general election in the House of Commons in London on September 9, 2019. AFP
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson introduces his motion for an early general election in the House of Commons in London on September 9, 2019. AFP

The suspension of Britain’s parliament was accompanied by scenes of chaos and protest as MPs voiced their discontent over the forced five-week break.

After delivering UK prime minister Boris Johnson’s sixth straight defeat and thwarting the government’s plans for a snap October election, opposition MPs vented their anger at the close of two frenetic weeks in Westminster.

“Shame on you,” MPs from the UK’s left of centre Labour Party shouted as the prorogation ceremony unfolded. Some held signs that read “silenced,” a reference to Mr Johnson’s controversial suspension of parliament in the critical run-up to Britain’s October 31 Brexit deadline.

Unabashed by the scenes, Mr Johnson told a cabinet meeting hours later that he would be leading a one nation government that would respect the result of Britain’s 2016 referendum to leave the EU.

The message seemed aimed at rebuffing claims Mr Johnson had transformed his party into a “right-wing sect” by removing the whip from 21 Tory MPs who voted with the opposition last week. According to the Spectator magazine Mr Johnson hammered his point home by claiming he was “the most liberal Conservative PM in decades”.

Speaking at Kings College London, Former Labour prime minister Tony Blair intervened in the ongoing Brexit debate to reissue his calls for a second referendum. The 10-year PM said Mr Johnson’s hopes of using a general election to resolve Brexit was wrong “as a matter of principle”.

"What Boris Johnson thinks is 'If I fight a Brexit general election, I can say to people 'look it's no-deal or you get Jeremy Corbyn,” the former Labour PM said.

In Brussels the incoming head of the European Commission confirmed the EU was prepared for a no-deal Brexit as she unveiled her team in the new EU executive. Ursula von der Leyen also called for Britain and the European bloc to build their new relationship moving forward in the event of Brexit.

"Brexit, should it happen, is not the end of something but it's the beginning of our future relationship," she said.

The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn doubled down in his criticism of the prime minister. Addressing union members at the TUC Congress in Brighton Mr Corbyn said the prime minister was "running away from scrutiny" by proroguing parliament.

Mr Corbyn told union members his party was prepared to go head-to-head with the Conservatives at the polls but at a time of his choosing, not the prime minister.

"So a general election is coming. But we won't allow Johnson to dictate the terms,” he said to applause in Brighton. "And I can tell you this: We're ready for that election. We're ready to unleash the biggest people-powered campaign we've ever seen," Mr Corbyn said.

Mr Johnson’s special advisor Dominic Cummings, the bête noire of the anti-no deal coalition, confirmed to reporters that Britain would be leaving the EU as planned on October 31 and also frame the choice in terms of the wealthy resisting the claims of the wider population. He admonished press outside his house, telling them to “get out of London” and talk to voters who were not “rich remainers”.

A cross-party group of MPs said on Tuesday that enough time remained to secure a deal to leave the EU. More than a dozen MPs, including Labour's Stephen Kinnock, former Tory cabinet minister Rory Stewart, independent Nick Boles and Liberal Democrat Norman Lamb launched the “MPs for a Deal” group.

"We have something here which is the basic foundation of a perfectly pragmatic deal that we believe can command a majority in Parliament and also begin to reunite our deeply divided country,” Mr Kinnock said. “Even at this 11th hour we think there is time to do it," he added.

The prime minister was due to meet with the Northern Irish unionist party leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster later on Tuesday. A Downing Street spokesperson ruled out the possibility the thorny issue of the backstop, an insurance policy to allow frictionless trade on the island of Ireland in the event of a no-deal Brexit, could be ruled out with a Northern Ireland-only backstop.

Updated: September 10, 2019 06:40 PM

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