In a dramatic gamble mere weeks before Britain is set to leave the European Union, newly minted Prime Minister Boris Johnson has put a lid on U.K. Parliament.
The move has effectively frozen Brexit deal talks — at least for now.
It could ultimately make a no-deal Brexit more likely, something experts have long warned could wreak havoc on the country’s economy, particularly business and trade.
What just happened?
Johnson has argued he chose this route merely to outline the government’s “very exciting agenda” under his new leadership.
His opponents say otherwise.
They believe Johnson’s call to prorogue Parliament is a disruption designed to block MPs from trying to thwart his plans for Brexit.
By proroguing Parliament — now suspended from mid-September to Oct. 14 — lawmakers are left with far less time to deal with the biggest constitutional shakeup in the country’s history.
What does it mean to prorogue parliament?
Prorogation is the official term for shutting down a parliamentary session.
In the U.K., prorogation suspends Parliament’s sitting and ends all current legislative talks.
Parliament is usually prorogued once a year — often April or May — but it’s normal for prorogation to happen at other times under a new government as well. This is different than dissolving Parliament, which is done before an election.
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The current parliamentary session began in June 2017.
Lawmakers have dealt with a huge volume of legislation ahead of Brexit, making it the longest session in British political history in nearly 400 years, according to The Guardian.
What does the Queen have to do with it?
It is ultimately up to the Queen to prorogue parliament.
The suspension of Parliament typically happens a few days before the annual Queen’s Speech.
The Queen’s Speech happens when a new government lays out its plans for the coming year, including priorities and legislation it will seek to pass. The reading marks the beginning of a new parliamentary session.
It is the government who writes the Queen’s Speech — Queen Elizabeth II just reads it out.
While she does, in theory, have the power to block laws or pick a new government, it is customary for the monarch to stay out of politics.
Queen Elizabeth II, in particular, has been known for her cautiousness in politics and does not intervene in political matters.
Why is the opposition against it?
The move has infuriated Johnson’s opponents specifically because of the timing.
There are mere weeks before Britain is set to decide how — or even whether — it leaves the European Union. Leaders of Britain’s opposition parties are battling to prevent Johnson from steering the country out of the EU without a deal. Some MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit have accused Johnson of staging a “coup.”
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Johnson’s move to prorogue Parliament limits time for discussion of Brexit. It will squeeze talks down to a handful of days before the so-called EU “exit day,” which is currently set for Oct. 31.
The Queen-approved suspension tacks onto an already planned three-week Parliament suspension, which was alotted for politicians to hold annual conferences.
Johnson has said he intends to leave the EU with an exit deal to smooth the transition.
If he can’t get one, he’s said he will leave anyway.
He’s said claims that he suspended Parliament to prevent his Brexit intentions from crumbling are “completely untrue.”
What happens next?
It’s not totally clear.
There is a possibility that lawmakers could call for a no-confidence vote in Johnson and his government. If passed, it could cause the government to collapse.
They could also try and keep Parliament running by passing emergency legislation when they briefly reconvene. A bid to take the suspension to court for judicial review is also possible.
A petition opposing Johnson’s decision, posted on the British Parliament’s website, has been gaining traction since it was posted Wednesday as well.
For now, Parliament returns from its summer break on Sept. 3.
— With files from Reuters and the Associated Press