Boris Johnson has suspended Parliament – some clarifications
Hi there. This is Mike Doherty again. If you listened to my last podcast, you will remember that I spoke about the list of problems facing humanity and how we need to understand them if we stand any chance of solving them.
I was going to start with global warming, but with the political changes facing us today 28 Aug 2019 in the UK, with the Brexit issue, I thought I would see if I could clarify some of the issues
It’s true that there was a referendum in 2016 which was won, just, by the leave voters, now known as the Brexiteers, who had achieved 52 % of the vote.
That referendum asked the question, “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”
Notice that this was a very poor way of framing the question. It was simply should we leave or stay. No mention of how we should leave – with or without a deal – what sort of deal, if any. Also no mention of how we should remain – under what terms.
Now, after three years and three Prime Ministers, we are finally facing these issues.
Boris Johnson, our new Prime Minister has stated that we will leave the EU on 31 Oct 2019, with or without a deal.
He faces massive opposition within Parliament and within all the political parties because he seems to prefer a no deal exit, in spite of what he says – but then, he is not famous for being honest.
At this point I feel I should clarify the difference between the government and parliament. Parliament consists of the 650 MPs that we elect a voters. It’s responsible for checking the work of the government, and examining, debating and approving new laws. It’s sometimes called the ‘Legislature’.
The government is responsible for running the country, deciding what to do, what policies to carry out and then implementing them, and for proposing new laws. Sometimes called the ‘Executive’.
So today, 28 Aug 2019, the PM asked the Queen to prorogue Parliament, that is to suspend it, and she has agreed. Parliament will be suspended from between the 9th and the 12th Sep until 14th Oct – the date of the new session of Parliament opening with the Queen’s Speech.
This has raised many questions which I’ll try to answer.
Can the Prime Minister do this?
Yes. As Prime Minister, he is within his legal rights to ask Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament. Every new PM can ask for parliament to be prorogued so that a new session can begin and s that the new government’s programme can be announced during the Queen’s Speech, but in this case he has asked for the suspension to be for up to 25 working days, leaving only 17 days before the deadline for leaving the EU. Many feel that this is a ploy to reduce the amount of time left for any attempt by parliament to block a No Deal exit.
Could Her Majesty have refused?
The answer is NO. Her role is to accept the advice of the Prime Minister on all matters. However, under the current circumstances, many feel that the PM is drawing the Queen into this political battle between the parties, thereby politicising her role, which is totally against tradition. She is the Sovereign and her duty is to carry out her role without favouring any political party, whatever she may feel as a peron.
Can legal action be taken to change the decision?
Again, the answer is NO. The courts have no power to challenge the decision of the Monarch, whose role is effectively above the law. When bills have been through the Parliamentary process they are passed to the monarch to receive Royal Assent – that means that she agrees to the bill becoming an Act of Parliament – that is a new law.
Even though the royal decision cannot be considered by the courts, the Prime Minister’s advice to the monarch can be, so it would be possible for judicial review of the PM’s advice to be sought.
Sir John Major, a previous Prime Minister, has stated that he will be seeking a judicial review.
Also there is already a legal challenge taking place in the Scottish courts.
Would a vote of no confidence in the government have the desired effect?
The Tories only have a majority of 1 in the Commons and even that depends on the support of the ten MPs from Northern Ireland – the DUP. (Democratic Unionist Party).
So it would be possible for a vote of no confidence to bring down the government, but it would need some Tory MPs to change sides and vote against the government which could be putting their political careers at risk, but some have already declared that they would vote to bring down the government in order to stop a no deal Brexit.
Also if there was a vote of no confidence there would then be a two week period during which an alternative government could attempt to command a majority before a general election would be triggered. Time is very short.
How about a second referendum?
There is probably not enough time for a second referendum to be set up before 31 Oct and there is no guarantee that either the Remains or the Leavers would win.
And the result would depend on how the questions were framed. For example, if there were 3 options as has been suggested this could lead to a guaranteed win for Remain.
Why is this? Let’s say the options are 1) Remain 2) Leave with a deal 3) Leave without a deal, and assume the country is still split round about 50/50 as before then the Remain vote would still be about the same but the Leave vote would be split thus guaranteeing a win for Remain.
And, let’s say that there was a similar result where one side or the other won by a very small margin. Would this solve the problem? Would everybody accept the result or would there be a cry for a third referendum.
Also a second referendum and possibly a third would suit the EU. That is how they operate. EU policy is to keep having referenda until they get the result they want. They’ve done it in other countries.
How about the petition to stop the suspension of parliament which has got over a million signatures?
As there are more than 10,000 signatures, there must be a debate in parliament on this issue, but it is not binding on the government, which is not required to take any action.
However, that doesn’t mean it will have no effect. It will highlight the issues even more than they are already and may change some minds.
Can the Speaker take any action to sort out the situation as he has called Boris’s action a ‘Constitutional outrage’?
Yes. If asked by any member to allow time for an emergency debate on the suspension, he has the power to agree to that and make time for a debate, but for a change in this matter, it would have to go to the House of Lords which would have the power to delay the process until after the date of the suspension.
I think that’s enough for now. If you would like more information about this or other topics, leave me a message.
In the words of the Chinese curse, ‘May you live in interesting times’.