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Johnson gets Queen's nod to suspend Parliament
PRIME Minister Boris Johnson has received approval from Queen Elizabeth II to suspend the UK Parliament from mid-September to mid-October - a move that could hamper lawmakers' efforts to block a no-deal Brexit and even trigger a constitutional crisis. The pound slumped.
"This is a new government with a very exciting agenda," Mr Johnson said in a pooled TV interview. "We need new legislation, we've got to be bringing forward new and important bills and that's why we're going to have a Queen's Speech and we're going to do it on Oct 14."
Under the plan, all legislative business would be suspended from Sept 12, a UK official said, until the Queen's Speech on Oct 14 kicks off a new session of Parliament. Mr Johnson said he is not seeking a general election and there will be "ample time" for lawmakers to debate Brexit. The timing means Parliament will resume days before a crucial European Union summit on Brexit scheduled on Oct 17-18.
But while Mr Johnson said it is normal for a new government to want to press ahead with its own agenda with a Queen's Speech, the timing is deeply controversial. The premier has pledged to take the UK out of the EU on Oct 31 without a divorce deal if necessary, the scenario most feared by businesses and opposed by a substantial number of British lawmakers who planned to use the next few weeks in Parliament to try to prevent it.
Mr Johnson's team see it as a "useful political side effect" of the suspension that it would deny time to lawmakers mobilising to stop a no-deal Brexit, the BBC's Laura Kuenssberg said on Twitter.
Sterling dropped to a six-day low of US$1.2156 and was trading 0.6 per cent lower by 1100 GMT. It weakened to 91.265 pence against the euro, its lowest in nearly a week.
Parliament is due to return on Sept 3, and was only going to sit for two weeks before taking a three-week recess to allow MPs to go to their annual party conferences. That would have seen it returning on Oct 7. But Mr Johnson's delay will buy him more than a week. A Queen's Speech is usually followed by four or five days of debate.
MPs who oppose a no-deal Brexit have feared Mr Johnson would attempt to stop them meeting, and won't take it lying down. Some have talked of simply continuing to meet in another building, and defying ministers. Parliament has also passed measures aimed at forcing the government to let it meet.
They could still move against Mr Johnson next week, possibly with a vote of no confidence. But even that could be difficult, according to Martyn Atkins, a parliamentary clerk. If the Queen has already agreed to suspend parliament, he said on Twitter, that would still apply, meaning rebels would have until the suspension date to form a new government.
"The prime minister's decision is deeply questionable and frankly pretty outrageous," Dominic Grieve, one of the Conservatives trying to stop a no-deal Brexit, told the BBC. "It's a deliberate attempt to make sure that Parliament doesn't sit for a five-week period." Mr Johnson's opponents hadn't wanted to use a no-confidence vote, instead preferring to try to pass a law that would compel the prime minister to seek a Brexit extension. But Mr Grieve said they might now have no choice, and that Parliament's return next week would see moves to stop the government, including probably a vote of no confidence.
In a sign of the likely legal battles to come, attorney Jolyon Maugham - who spearheaded a landmark case that led the EU's top court to rule that Britain can reverse the Brexit process if it chooses - said on Twitter he is seeking an interim judicial order to prevent Parliament from being suspended.
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow, who has previously said he would fight any attempt to suspend Parliament, called it 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," Mr Bercow said in a statement, released to the Press Association newswire. "At this time, it is vital that our elected Parliament has its say. After all, we live in a parliamentary democracy."
"Boris Johnson is trying to use the Queen to concentrate power in his own hands - this is a deeply dangerous and irresponsible way to govern," Yvette Cooper, a Labour MP who also chairs Parliament's home affairs committee, said on Twitter.
British opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has asked to meet the Queen to raise his concerns about Mr Johnson's plans to suspend parliament for longer than normal before. Mr Johnson said during his leadership campaign that he was not "remotely attracted" to the idea of suspending Parliament to deliver Brexit, though he refused to rule out doing so.A major speech by Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid, scheduled for Wednesday, was cancelled at short notice on Tuesday afternoon, suggesting there may have been a sudden shift in the strategy of Johnson's team. BLOOMBERG, REUTERS