Boris Johnson will suspend parliament in a deeply controversial move which could prevent British lawmakers from having time to pass legislation to stop Britain crashing out of the EU with no deal.
The plan will force parliament to disband just days after lawmakers return from their summer break in early September, and weeks before the U.K. is due to leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31.
Johnson has gambled his leadership on a “do or die” pledge to leave the EU by that deadline. Lawmakers from every party have reacted furiously to his latest plan, with members of parliament from across the political spectrum describing it as anti-democratic ploy to deny lawmakers the chance to form a majority coalition against the government to prevent a no-deal exit.
A government minister told The Daily Beast: “The prime minister's approach is clever—stepping over the unpleasantness of Brexit and talking of the bright sunlit uplands to follow.”
A group of opposition members of parliament had already vowed to come together to try to block the prospect of no deal, and on Tuesday announced that they'd try to achieve that through passing legislation. Johnson's move significantly shortens the period of time available to those lawmakers to carry out their plan before the Halloween deadline.
Johnson interrupted the Queen's annual summer holiday in Balmoral, Scotland, to send two of his ministers to ask for her approval to suspend parliament. Despite outrage from the opposition, the request was granted.
John Bercow, the traditionally non-partisan speaker of the House of Commons, launched an astonishing attack on Johnson's plan. Bercow described it as a “democratic outrage” and was quoted by the BBC as saying: “It is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty.”
One of Johnson's own Conservative party lawmakers, Dominic Grieve, called the plan “outrageous” and warned: “This government will come down.”
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described Johnson's actions as a “smash and grab on our democracy to force through a no deal,” and said he will immediately attempt to prevent Johnson from succeeding when parliament returns next week. He added that a vote of no confidence will be called on Johnson's government “at some point.”
President Donald Trump unhelpfully waded into the imminent crisis, stating his support for Johnson in a Wednesday morning tweet which said it would be “very hard” for Corbyn to win a no-confidence vote against the prime minister because he's “exactly what the U.K. has been looking for.”
Johnson has insisted he wants to leave the EU on October 31 with a deal, but says he's willing to leave without one rather than extend the deadline any further. When Parliament is suspended in September, it will only allow lawmakers a few days next week to push for changes.
It's not unusual for a prime minister to suspend parliament. The move, known as prorogation, is traditionally done annually before a new parliamentary session. However, it's not a coincidence Johnson has proposed it as lawmakers discussed blocking his plans.
Asked if he was denying lawmakers the time to stop a no-deal Brexit, the prime minister said Tuesday: “No, that is completely untrue. We are bringing forward a new legislative program on crime, hospitals, making sure we have the education funding we need.”
In a letter sent to all British lawmakers, Johnson said they would be able to vote on any new deal he negotiates before October 31.