Bercow ends undemocratic Tory fantasy of shutting down parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit

Speaker John Bercow next to MP Dominic Raab
Joshua Funnell

Speaker of the house of commons John Bercow has killed a Tory plan to bypass parliament and force through a hard no-deal Brexit.

Bercow’s intervention came after Brexiteer Tory leadership hopeful Dominic Raab suggested ‘proroguing’ parliament. This would stop MPs preventing a no-deal Brexit from occurring on 31 October.

But on 6 June, Bercow stated this was “simply not going to happen”.

They want to ‘prorogue’ parliament, whatever that means…

So, what was the scheme Raab and some other Conservatives had thought up?

It comes down to an obscure UK constitutional procedure known as ‘proroguing’ parliament. As the BBC explained:

Every parliamentary session… is ended when it is “prorogued” by the Queen.

The process essentially closes Parliament and ends the progress of current legislation until a new session begins.

Although it is technically at the Queen’s “command”, in practice it is the government’s decision of when it happens.

But how could Raab use this to push through a no-deal Brexit?

In theory, a new prime minister who feared MPs blocking Brexit could advise the queen to prorogue parliament. This would then stop MPs attending parliament.

Which Tories want to prorogue parliament?

Raab has led the calls:

Another advocate is Edward Leigh, who tweeted:

Bercow having none of it

But when the prospect of proroguing parliament was raised with the speaker, Bercow made it clear he was having none of it:

Bercow said:

Parliament will not be evacuated from the centre stage of the decision-making process on this important matter. That’s simply not going to happen. It’s just so blindingly obvious, that it almost doesn’t need to be stated, but apparently it does, and therefore I have done.

Tories and a former speaker unimpressed too

Other Conservative leadership contenders have also dismissed the idea. Both Rory Stewart and Matt Hancock argued it undermined democracy:

And DWP secretary Amber Rudd said:

I think it’s outrageous to consider proroguing parliament. We are not Stuart kings.

Former commons speaker Betty Boothroyd criticised Raab, claiming he:

wants to become prime minister by pitching to a very narrow slice of the electorate – members of the Conservative party who mostly voted for Nigel Farage… [he] thinks he can win their support by stopping either MPs or the public having the final say on Brexit.

She added:

But I have a message for this ambitious young man: you don’t treat our parliament, our democracy or our people that way. If you even try to impose your No Deal Brexit on us by cancelling parliamentary proceedings, you won’t survive as prime minister for five minutes, you will be booted out of office and you are not worthy of your seat in parliament which should be reserved for those who deserve the title of democrats.

What happened to sovereignty?

The idea may have little power anyway. The former secretary of state for constitutional affairs Charlie Falconer said:

Unlawful or not, the idea shows the undemocratic lengths some hard Brexit supporters are now willing to go to.

The great irony is that Leave campaigners justified Brexit as a means of returning sovereignty to the British parliament. And yet now, MPs talk of sacrificing the sovereignty of British parliament to achieve Brexit.

Featured image via YouTube – BrexitCentral / YouTube – Guardian News

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