Arlene Foster and DUP welcome Johnson’s move to suspend UK parliament
SDLP leader describes British prime minister’s move as action of ‘tin-pot dictator’
Arlene Foster welcomed the move to suspend the UK parliament. File photograph: Niall Carson/PA
DUP leader Arlene Foster has welcomed British prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision to seek the suspension of the Westminster parliament which has been branded as an attempt to restrict MPs’ ability to prevent a no-deal Brexit.
While those opposed to a British crashout from the European Union characterised this latest development as a move to “blindside” Remainer MPs, Ms Foster nonetheless expressed support for Mr Johnson’s action.
“We welcome the decision to hold a Queen’s Speech marking the start of a new session of parliament on October 14th, where the government will set out its new domestic legislative agenda,” she said.
“In the meantime, we will continue our work with the prime minister to strengthen the union, deliver a sensible deal as we exit the EU and restore devolution in Northern Ireland, ” she said.
“The new session of parliament will set a new domestic legislative programme which can deal with the matters most important to people, such as their safety, their schools and their hospitals,” said Ms Foster.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood however said it was clear that Mr Johnson was engaged in an “anti-democratic prorogation plot”. Sinn Féin’s seven MPs who refused to take their House of Commons seats to challenge Brexit were “facilitating this disaster”, he said.
“Proroguing your parliament to enforce the will of a government that has no democratic legitimacy for an act that has no majority support is the behaviour of a tin-pot dictator. Boris Johnson has stepped far outside the acceptable norms for a functioning democracy and he must be reined in,” said Mr Eastwood.
“This is a moment for political courage. Every MP should take a stand in this moment, to defend the interests of people across these islands but particularly in the North where businesses and Border communities will suffer the most as a result of a no-deal coup,” he added.
“There is now a compelling democratic imperative to stop Johnson and stop this Brexit. DUP MPs who have nodded along with this and Sinn Féin MPs who refuse to act are facilitating this disaster. It’s time for leadership.”
However, Sinn Féin has insisted Mr Johnson’s move to suspend parliament will not force the party to rethink its abstentionist policy at Westminster.
Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy branded the suggestion “absurd” and a “nonsense”.
Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann said the proroguing of parliament risked undermining public confidence in Westminster and was “an abuse of process”.
“If we want parliament to pass an agreement with the EU before October 31st, this isn’t the way to go about it,” said Mr Swann.
“We need to see an end to the plotting from both sides in Westminster and that replaced by politicians focused on getting a deal so that the United Kingdom leaves the EU in an orderly fashion,” he added. “Otherwise the people of Northern Ireland will be caught in the middle.
“The incendiary language being used by some politicians across these islands needs to cease. We should all work towards getting a consensus on a withdrawal agreement. If anything, it is the backstop which provides the greatest threat to the Belfast Agreement.”
Alliance leader Naomi Long said Mr Johnson’s move was a “cowardly and outrageous” act which “follows in the footsteps of other dictators”.
“With this move, parliamentary democracy is being undermined and sacrificed on the altar of Brexit, which puts us in extremely dangerous territory,” she said. “It is utterly appalling the DUP are giving cover to this parliamentary coup, when they know full well through the leaking of Operation Yellowhammer the severe effects a reckless no-deal will have on Northern Ireland, a Northern Ireland they profess to seek to serve.” Additional reporting: PA