EXPLAINER: Suspended parliament and the Queen's Speech - what the hell is going on? 1 year ago

EXPLAINER: Suspended parliament and the Queen's Speech - what the hell is going on?

On Wednesday morning, the world woke up to the breaking news that Boris Johnson would be asking the Queen to suspend parliament.

Members of Parliament are due to return from summer recess on 3 September. Brexit will be top of the agenda, and MPs have been seeking a cross-party agreement to pass a law that would rule out the possibility of no-deal.


This morning, Johnson confirmed that he had asked the Queen to suspend parliament (a process also known as 'prorogation') in the second week of September. In effect, the move would give parliament very little time to find a legislative bulwark against no-deal. Parliament would not resume until 14 October.

The ultimate consequence of the suspension of parliament would appear to be the UK stepping on the gas as it hurtles towards the no-deal cliff edge on 31 October. It also allows Johnson's cabinet to effectively govern without the consultation of the democratically elected parliament.

At first glance, it would appear that Johnson's plan has brought the walls of Westminster down upon his own head.

John Bercow, Speaker of the House of Parliament and member of the Conservative party, has said: "This move represents a constitutional outrage. However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty."

Phillip Hammond, who had been Chancellor of the Exchequer for three years under Theresa May, said: "It would be a constitutional outrage if Parliament were prevented from holding the government to account at a time of national crisis. Profoundly undemocratic."

Johnson's cabinet has moved to defend the decision, painting it as the typical behaviour of a "new government." James Cleverly, the Chairman of the Tory Party, has said that it is normal for parliament to be suspended in anticipation of a State Opening of Parliament (also known as a Queen's Speech).

The DUP have also come out in favour of Johnson's plan to suspend parliament.


It is now speculated that the ensuing crisis could result in a general election. Indeed, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has already responded to today's news by saying: "If Johnson has confidence in his plans he should put them to the people in a general election or public vote."

Similarly, Dominic Grieve, from Johnson's own party, has suggested that the prorogation of parliament would result in Johnson losing the confidence of parliament - thus triggering a general election. He told the BBC: "I think there are plenty of Conservatives who take the view that a no-deal Brexit would essentially be catastrophic for the country's future and will move to stop it."

What happens next? 

When parliament returns next week, it now seems likely that a motion of no confidence will be called in the current government, and it seems eminently plausible that Johnson could lose. If Johnson were to lose the motion of no confidence, it would be incumbent upon him to call a general election.

Theresa May called a snap election in 2017 only to see her party's large polling lead collapse, her majority in parliament disappear, Labour gain ground and a coalition be formed with the DUP. Johnson will hope to fare better than his predecessor on this count.


Indeed, if he fares any worse, then the curtain will likely come down on his brief time as prime minister.

A general election, however, would almost certainly destroy any hope of legislation to prevent a no-deal Brexit. As reported by Sebastian Payne of the Financial Times, a senior official for No. 10 said: "If MPs pass a no confidence vote next week then we won’t resign. We won’t recommend another government, we’ll dissolve parliament, call an election between November 1-5 and there’ll be zero chance of Grieve legislation."

In short, even if MPs do win a no confidence motion against the government, the resultant election would take place after the no-deal deadline.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at such gamesmanship, saying: "Bring it on. Have the courage of your convictions, Boris Johnson. Call an election now - with polling day before October 31 - and let the people vote. Or are you frit?"


Much now hangs in the balance: whether a no-confidence motion in the government is called, whether Boris Johnson can defeat such a motion, whether a general election will be called, whether it will fall before or after the Brexit deadline, and of course, whether a deal can be struck between the EU and the UK.

Parliament returns on 3 September.