The Irish Times view on the Westminster suspension: Boris Johnson vs British democracy

This is where Johnson’s interests and those of his country diverge

Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend the British parliament for five weeks is an outrageous manoeuvre to curtail MPs from blocking the no-deal exit that a majority of them oppose. Photograph:  Aaron Chown/PA Wire

Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend the British parliament for five weeks is an outrageous manoeuvre to curtail MPs from blocking the no-deal exit that a majority of them oppose. Photograph: Aaron Chown/PA Wire

 

So this is what taking back control looks like. Having built their campaign for withdrawal from the European Union around the argument that Britain’s sovereign parliament must have its supremacy restored, the Brexiteers who control 10 Downing Street have now decided that the best way of liberating their beloved parliament is to shut it down.

Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend the institution for five weeks at a critical moment in the Brexit process is an outrageous manoeuvre to curtail MPs from blocking the no-deal exit that a majority of them oppose. And they oppose it for good reason. A no-deal crash-out would harm Britain’s economy, rob London of any leverage as it enters trade talks with the EU and trash the county’s international reputation. It would also hurt Ireland and the EU. No matter how often Johnson and his acolytes claim they are implementing the will of the people, one fact cannot change: nobody voted for this. Not a single British citizen was ever asked to approve a hard Brexit, let alone a no-deal.

Borderlands

A special investigation on Brexit & the Border Read More

Opposition parties and Europhile Conservative MPs were rightly indignant about Johnson’s attempt to circumvent them. Unfortunately, their protestations would carry more weight if they had shown the will or the wherewithal over the past three years to coalesce and force a better outcome. If they really wanted to frustrate the prime minister, they could vote down his government and install a caretaker administration, but that would require a degree of unity that has proved beyond them.

None of that is to excuse Johnson’s reckless act. The most charitable interpretation is that he is seeking to buy himself a few weeks’ breathing room while he negotiates minor tweaks to the EU-UK deal, the endorsement of which would require him to throw his own party ultras under the bus. But it remains a profoundly risky and undemocratic act. Johnson will argue that MPs are only likely to lose up to six sitting days. More important, however, the move will mean that any new legislation which is incomplete ahead of the suspension will fall at that point. As a result, the window in which any anti-no deal legislation can be enacted will almost certainly close.

Johnson no doubt believes he has struck on a win-win strategy. Either he succeeds in neutering a troublesome parliament or he loses a no-confidence vote and calls an election which opinion polls suggest would give him a bigger majority. But this is where Johnson’s interests and those of his country diverge. By initiating a plan that involves subverting the will of a democratic parliament and setting off constitutional turmoil in the middle of the biggest political crisis in generations, Johnson is signalling that he will do whatever it takes to get his way. Now opponents of a no-deal exit must show they are ready to do what it takes to stop him.

BREXIT: The Facts

Read them here
The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.