Explained | What’s Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy?

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson.   | Photo Credit: AP

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s move to “prorogue” or suspend Parliament for over five weeks beginning September second week has triggered furious responses from opposition leaders, who call the decision a threat to democracy. The decision comes at a time when Britain is inching closer towards the October 31 deadline for Brexit. The suspension of Parliament between September 9-12 and October 14 would mean that the lawmakers will have less time to debate, scrutinize or to block Mr. Johnson’s Brexit plan.

What is prorogation?

Typically, prorogation is to bring a parliamentary session to end by the monarch on the advice of the government. In this case, Queen Elizabeth II approved the Johnson government’s request to suspend Parliament “on a day no earlier than Monday the 9th day of September and no later than Thursday the 12th day of September 2019 to Monday the 14th day of October 2019”. Usually, Parliament is prorogued every year. But the current session began in 2017 — Theresa May, Mr. Johnson’s predecessor, didn’t recommend prorogation last year due to Brexit debates. Mr. Johnson says the prorogation of the current session was long overdue. And in the new session, to be opened by the Queen on October 14, the government can present a new legislative agenda.

What does it mean for Brexit?

By suspending Parliament for over a month, Mr. Johnson has effectively narrowed the lawmakers’ opportunities to reject his Brexit plans. The MPs, who are currently on recess, are supposed to be back in session on September 3. Before the suspension of Parliament, they were scheduled to be in session till September 16. This would have been crucial time for rebel MPs to come up with legislation against a no-deal Brexit, which Mr. Johnson has not ruled out. Now that Parliament will be closed on either September 9 or 12, the time available for MPs in the current session to legislate against a potential no-deal Brexit has shrunk.

Usually, MPs go on recess in the third week of September every year for their party conferences and reconvene in early October. This year, the plan was to take break from September 17 to October 8 so that they will have at least three week in October to discuss Brexit plans before the October 31 deadline. But after Mr. Johnson’s move, the Queen will reopen Parliament on October 14. There’s an EU summit on October 17 and 18 in which Mr. Johnson could seek a fresh Brexit deal. After the summit, if he has a new deal, he will present that to the lawmakers, which means the MPs will get only nine working days to either pass or reject the deal.

What is next?

Mr. Johnson’s plan is clearly to cut short the time available for MPs. With a reduced timeframe, he will try to force his Brexit legislation through Parliament. Once Parliament reconvenes, Mr. Johnson would ask the lawmakers either to support his plan or get ready for a no-deal exit. When Theresa May was the Prime Minister, MPs rejected her Brexit deal thrice. They failed to come up with an alternative plan either. The only thing they agreed regarding Brexit was to oppose a no-deal Brexit. It is not sure whether Prime Minister Johnson will even have a Brexit deal that’s different from Ms. May’s deal. The EU has rejected any new deal. Even if Mr. Johnson repackages Ms. May’s deal and presents before Parliament, MPs won’t have many options this time. The threat of no-deal will be hanging over them with the clock ticking fast.

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Printable version | Dec 9, 2021 7:32:22 AM |

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