Boris Johnson appears to contradict his own claim that parliament suspension was 'nothing to do with Brexit'

Former cabinet minister Amber Rudd says PM 'can't have it both ways'

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Tuesday 24 September 2019 15:30
Boris Johnson says the Supreme Court ruling was 'not the right decision'

Boris Johnson has come under fire from a former member of his cabinet for contradicting his previous claims that the suspension of parliamentary sittings was “nothing to do with Brexit”.

Responding to the Supreme Court’s ruling that the five-week “prorogation” was unlawful, Mr Johnson said that some people were trying to “frustrate” Brexit and that the job of negotiating an EU withdrawal deal was made harder by the outcome of the case.

Former work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd, who walked out of Mr Johnson’s cabinet in protest at his expulsion of Brexit rebels from the Conservative party, said the prime minister was trying to “have it both ways”.

It was “unwise” for the PM initially to insist Brexit was not behind the prorogation decision and “not responsible” for him to now change his tune, she said.

Speaking in New York shortly after the Supreme Court ruling, Mr Johnson said: “The exciting thing for us is to get a good deal, and that is what we are trying to do, and to be honest, it is not made much easier by this kind of stuff in parliament or in the courts .”

He added: “Let’s be in no doubt, there are a lot of people who want to frustrate Brexit, there are people who want to stop this country coming out of the EU. We have a parliament that is unable to prorogue and doesn’t want to have an election. It think it’s time we took this forward.”

At the time of prorogation, Mr Johnson and his ministers insisted that the five-week closure of parliament was not linked to Brexit, but was needed to prepare for a Queen’s Speech on 14 October.

But the Supreme Court rejected this argument, pointing out that the Commons was normally closed for only four to six days ahead of the ceremonial opening of the parliamentary year.

Ms Rudd told Sky News: “The whole government defence was that the prorogation was nothing to do with Brexit, it was about convenience and timing.

“I don’t think it was responsible for government to hit back and say this is all about people trying to frustrate Brexit. You can’t have it both ways.”


She added: “I believe that there was a political content to the prorogation, in its length and duration. It was perhaps unwise of the government not to say ‘We are entitled to have a political content to it’.

“It was reasonable to use a certain amount of political nuance on prorogation. It was a mistake to ignore it altogether.”

Ms Rudd said she did not think Mr Johnson should resign, insisting he was “fit for office” and should return to the Commons to seek a way forward on Brexit with MPs.

But she said he should consider sacking top aide Dominic Cummings, saying: “He is clearly not getting good advice. He will have to draw his own conclusions, but if I had been getting the kind of advice he has been getting, I would certainly be considering some people’s positions.”

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