UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has advised Queen Elizabeth II to order the prorogation of the Houses of Parliament by for a five week term from mid-September. The Queen has granted the order, casting doubt over the UK’s ability to ratify a Brexit deal before the 31 October deadline. This is in spite of previous comments from Johnson where he indicated that he would not consider such a move in the lead up to the deadline.
Prorogation is a formal suspension which is ordinarily sought to end a session of parliament. It triggers a short closure of the legislature, which is usually less than a week in length. The closure is then followed by a Queen’s Speech, which allows a government to pursue a new legislative agenda and begins a new parliamentary session. In an online video announcing the move, Johnson cited the need for the agenda in the House of Commons to be refreshed and the fact that the current session in Westminster had been the longest ever.
The move by Johnson has been met with a chorus of disapproval from the opposition parties, backbench Tory MPs and commentators. Many contend that the action is an abuse of constitutional process deployed in order to stifle the ability of parliament to vote on the Brexit strategy and that the Prime Minister’s claims of needing a new legislative agenda are masking an ulterior motive of preventing MPs from stopping a No Deal exit. The unusually long prorogation period and the unsuitability of shuttering parliament at such a crucial stage of the Brexit process have also been argued as indicators of the alleged motivations of the Prime Minister.
It appears these objectors will present more than mere vocal disapproval for Johnson too, as legal cases in both Scotland and England have already been mooted to challenge the prorogation.