Editorial

With or without: On U.K. Parliament suspension

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Boris Johnson seems bent on delivering a no-deal Brexit

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s audacious move on Wednesday to prorogue Parliament for five weeks is a cynical attempt to silence elected representatives on the key issue of Britain’s future ties with the European Union (EU). The decision is all the more suspect because the fraught political climate that has prevailed since June 2016 was the consequence of the country having to renegotiate the nature of its ties with its closest neighbours. Those complex questions could only have been addressed on the floor of the house. Mr. Johnson has sought to play down the controversial decision as no more than an intent to commence a fresh legislative session with the Queen’s speech charting the government’s domestic priorities. But the outrage the country has witnessed suggests that despite its legal correctness, the move may have set a terrible precedent and possibly eroded the Conservatives base. The long suspension announced on Wednesday leaves MPs barely enough time — next week and the second half of October — to avert the risk of a disorderly British exit.

 

But then, Mr. Johnson, a hardline Eurosceptic, is committed to delivering Brexit with or without a deal. He knew all along that the chances of securing a fresh accord with the EU were next to nil. Brussels will never budge on the question of the Irish backstop, the mechanism that is meant to protect the soft border between Dublin and Belfast. All the same, reiterating that demand in his grandiloquent style put a gloss on the inability to forge a new agreement. Any serious obstacles Mr. Johnson faces to achieve a hard Brexit are entirely domestic. Foremost, the Conservative party’s thin majority in the House of Commons renders Mr. Johnson’s government highly vulnerable to defeat on two separate counts. One is the move to stop a no-deal exit; a vote of no confidence in the Johnson government is the other. In a bid to avert a cliff-edge exit, the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently invited the opposition and Europhile MPs to back a transition government that would seek another extension to Article 50 and call a general election. The proposal enabled Mr. Corbyn to reset the current narrative, even if it elicited a lukewarm response from a rejuvenated Liberal Democratic party and pro-European Tories. Legislation to prevent a no-deal exit affords an opportunity for pro-European MPs across parties to take the decisive step. Meanwhile, a legal challenge against the prorogation has been mounted by activists drawing on a 2016 ruling that forced the government to consult the legislature before triggering Article 50. Britain’s biggest peace-time crisis must be resolved through the democratic process.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2019 5:11:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/with-or-without/article29302729.ece

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