Boris Johnson has had his move approved by the Queen
THE Queen was hauled into a long-feared constitutional crisis over Brexit yesterday after approving the suspension of Parliament for up to five weeks.
Her consent to the order proroguing Parliament from no earlier than September 9 and no later than September 12 until October 14 will severely hamper the efforts of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s opponents to stop a no-deal Brexit.
Three Conservative members of the Privy Council – Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg, Leader of the Lords Baroness Natalie Evans and Chief Whip Mark Spencer – flew to Aberdeen to meet the 93-year-old monarch in the library of her Highland retreat, Balmoral Castle, pictured below.
Their brief meeting, for which the Privy Counsellors stood according to tradition while the monarch simply said “approved” after the order was read out, came after Mr Johnson spoke to the Queen on the phone yesterday morning to request an end to the current parliamentary session.
It was a decision that provoked outrage at Westminster and jubilation among the PM’s supporters because of the implications for a no-deal Brexit.
It is not unusual for Parliament to be suspended before a new Queen’s Speech setting out a new government programme but usually it is only for a few days.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and his Liberal Democrat counterpart Jo Swinson both wrote to the Queen to protest and demand an urgent meeting with her, while the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said Mr Johnson’s move was a “constitutional outrage”.
Britain’s Republican movement complained that there was little point in having a monarchy if it failed to act as a check and balance and only ever did the bidding of the Prime Minister. But constitutional experts said the Queen had little choice but to approve Mr Johnson’s request.
They pointed out that by convention she acts on the advice of her Prime Minister, who is assumed to have the confidence of Parliament. She is supposed to remain politically neutral and, in addition to her role as head of state, act as a force for national unity and continuity.
Dr Bob Morris, a constitution expert at University College London, said if the Queen had refused the request or agreed to the demands of opposition leaders to meet her before making the decision she would have faced greater risks.
“That would have meant going behind the back of her Prime Minister,” he said.
He predicted, however, that the controversy would lead to MPs setting up an inquiry and creating a new statutory duty for Parliament to have to vote to approve its suspension.
He also suggested that MPs might create a duty for a new prime minister to have to face a confirmatory vote, just as the first ministers in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales already have to do.
Another expert, Dr Ruth Fox, director of the Hansard Society, said: “The Government’s decision to prorogue Parliament may not be unconstitutional or unlawful but it is an affront to parliamentary democracy.
“The Government’s understandable desire to bring this long session to an end and outline a new legislative programme in a Queen’s Speech could be met with a prorogation of one to two weeks’ duration.
“Anything longer than this is both unnecessary and beyond the norm.”