Brexit: More than 600,000 sign petition urging Boris Johnson not to suspend parliament

Voters join outpouring of anger as prime minister announces plan to stop MPs sitting for more than a month in run-up to Brexit deadline

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 28 August 2019 13:39 BST
Boris Johnson confirms prorogation of parliament

More than 600,000 people have signed a petition demanding that Boris Johnson ditch his plan to suspend parliament for a month, within hours of the prime minister announcing the move.

The text was signed by almost 90,000 people in just one hour amid uproar at the government’s decision to prorogue parliament between early September and 14 October – just two weeks before the 31 October Brexit deadline.

The move was branded a “constitutional outrage” as MPs from across the Commons expressed their anger.

Downing Street insisted it was normal for parliament not to sit ahead of a Queen’s Speech, which will take place on 14 October, and Mr Johnson claimed it was “completely untrue” that it was an attempt to stop MPs blocking a no-deal Brexit.

But the petition swiftly became one of the most popular on the official parliament petitions website.

Within minutes of being launched, it had passed the 10,000 signatures threshold at which the government must respond.

The text reads: “Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.”

Mr Johnson claimed that a Queen’s Speech was needed in mid-October to allow the government to lay out its “exciting” agenda.

He said: “We’ve got to move ahead now with a new legislative programme, and there will be ample time on both sides of that crucial 17 October [European Council] summit, in parliament, for MPs to debate the EU, to debate Brexit, and all the other issues.”

But the plan provoked outrage from across the House of Commons.

The speaker, John Bercow, said it was a “constitutional outrage”. He said: “However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country.”

Jeremy Corbyn accuses Boris Johnson of carrying out a 'smash and grab on our democracy' by asking the Queen to suspend Parliament

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I am appalled at the recklessness of Johnson’s government, which talks about sovereignty and yet is seeking to suspend parliament to avoid scrutiny of its plans for a reckless No Deal Brexit. This is an outrage and a threat to our democracy. “

And Tory rebel Dominic Grieve said the decision was “deeply questionable and frankly pretty outrageous”.

He suggested that MPs could topple Mr Johnson’s government in a vote of no confidence if they cannot find another way to stop parliament being suspended.

He said: “If it is impossible to prevent prorogation then it is going to be very difficult for people like myself to have keep confidence in the government – and I can well see why the leader of the opposition might wish to call a vote of no confidence.”

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