British Prime Minister Boris Johnson surprised friends and foes on Wednesday by suspending the British parliament for over a month, leaving hardly any time to debate about Brexit. Can his plan still be reversed?
The lower house
The British opposition did not see Johnson’s surprising and extremely provocative action coming on Wednesday. In one fell swoop he halved the number of session days in the Lower House until the brexit deadline, 31 October. As a result, the parliament hardly has time to debate the Brexit. Behind the scenes, Labor, the Scottish nationalists and the Liberal Democrats are feverishly discussing a counter-move.
That is not easy, since the parties have so far failed to form a front against Johnson. “What the prime minister did goes against all agreements. You bet we’re coming up with something he doesn’t see coming, “LibDems leader Jo Swinson told the BBC. In practice it seems that the opposition is trying to make its way through the rainforest with a plastic knife.
What is obvious is that the opposition is requesting an urgent debate on Tuesday, the first day after the summer break. During that debate, they can try to take over control of the Lower House agenda through an amendment, as they did in the spring. This gives the opposition the opportunity to make its own legislative proposals. And through a bill, they can force the government to ask the EU to postpone the Brexit, which means that a no-deal Brexit will be off for the time being.
The minimum majority of Johnson – one seat – offers possibilities. There are enough Conservative parliamentarians who are also furious about the seizure of power of their own prime minister. The only disadvantage is that there is very little time; such a bill for postponement must pass through Lagerhuis and Hogerhuis in a few days. And the Johnson government could slow down this process by filifying the proposal, proposing endless amendments, until there is no time left. The other option is a vote of no confidence, but because the opposition does not agree is about who should lead an interim government to be formed afterwards, that route also does not seem promising at the moment. And if there is no interim government, Johnson can still hold elections. He is in the polls at 34 percent, followed by Labor at 21 percent.
In the meantime, several lawyers and politicians are seeking justice, hoping that they can whistle Johnson back. In Scotland a case was started immediately, brought by 74 parliamentarians and members of the House of Representatives, to have the suspension of the parliament declared illegal. Such a case has also started in Belfast, Northern Ireland. In view of the rush, judges will soon have to pronounce on it.
If the government loses, it will no doubt appeal to the Supreme Court, the London Supreme Court.
Businesswoman Gina Miller has also rejoined the legal game. She won a case against the government in 2017, forcing Prime Minister May to ask Parliament for permission to resign.
However, several legal experts have difficulty imagining that the judge is forbidding Johnson’s move. “Although that move is politically shocking, it does not violate a precedent,” said Lord Sumption, a Supreme Court judge last year.
“A court is not there to determine what good political reasons are for doing such a thing, or bad political reasons. I therefore think that the chances are very low that this case will succeed. “
Immediately after the Queen gave her official permission to suspend the British Parliament, many Britons burst into rage. A petition to stop Johnson picked up more than one and a half million signatures in a short time. Also on Wednesday evening ten thousand people spontaneously demonstrated in front of parliament and more demonstrations will follow tomorrow.
Yet popular anger seems to yield little. There have been several major demonstrations in recent years that brought hundreds of thousands of Britons to Westminster, but no matter how controversial the government was, it did not allow itself to be fooled by any demonstration or petition.
In addition, anti-Brexit demonstrations have always been extremely polite. Britons are known to prefer to express their anger with sharp and humorous banners than to throw molotov cocktails. In addition, the polite British anger subsided after a demonstration.
Paul Mason, a well-known commentator on television and a supporter of Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, called on the British in the BBC program “Newsnight” for a massive popular uprising.
We must take to the streets peacefully for as long as possible, until this stops. This has nothing to do anymore with democracy that happens here”
For the time being Downing Street does not feel sufficiently pressured by society to change course.