Boris Johnson ‘seeks legal advice on shutting parliament for five weeks ahead of Brexit’

Leaked email reportedly shows prime minister asked for guidance on legality of move, known as proroguing

Chiara Giordano
Sunday 25 August 2019 09:00 BST
Boris Johnson says he will tackle Donald Trump over China trade war at G7

Boris Johnson is seeking to suspend parliament for five weeks in a bid to block MPs from extending Brexit further, according to a leaked email.

The prime minister has asked attorney general Geoffrey Cox whether parliament can be shut down from 9 September, The Observer reported.

An email from senior government advisers to an adviser in Mr Johnson’s office, sent within the last 10 days, claims the prime minister recently requested guidance on the legality of such a move, known as proroguing, the newspaper said.

However a spokesman for No 10 denied the claim late on Saturday, saying it was “entirely false”.

According to The Observer, the legal guidance given in the email advises that closing parliament could be possible, unless the courts agree to demands by anti-Brexit campaigners to block such a move.

It comes after MPs launched a cross-party campaign to block a no-deal departure from the EU on 31 October.

Reacting to the news, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer said Mr Johnson’s attempts to suspend parliament “must be stopped”.

He wrote on Twitter: “To suspend parliament at this crucial time is outrageous. MPs must take the earliest opportunity to take Johnson on and defeat him.”

Luciana Berger, independent MP for Liverpool Wavertree, said parliament “should be sitting every day until 31 October” and that Mr Johnson should “recall now”.

She added: “Yet his team are looking to close it for 5 weeks to ram through a reckless, mandateless, No Deal Brexit – revealing a dangerous contempt for our parliamentary democracy.”

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson is preparing to tell EU leaders that he will withhold £30bn from the Brexit divorce bill agreed by Theresa May unless they agree to changes to the deal, the Mail on Sunday reports.

Lawyers have calculated the government would only be liable to pay the EU about £9bn, instead of £39bn, if Britain leaves the bloc without a trade deal, according to the newspaper.

This is because there will not be any of the costs associated with any transition period, the newspaper said.

Mr Johnson arrived in the French resort of Biarritz on Saturday ahead of his first G7 summit.

The prime minister is expected to meet Donald Trump on Sunday, but he warned striking a trade deal with the US president would not be “plain sailing”.

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He will also discuss Brexit with European Council president Donald Tusk, after the pair clashed on Saturday over who would be to blame if a deal is not reached.

Before Mr Johnson had even touched down in Biarritz, Mr Tusk claimed the prime minister could go down in history as “Mr No Deal”.

The prime minister retaliated by suggesting a failure to reach a Brexit agreement would also reflect badly on Mr Tusk.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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