Johnson dismisses ‘very odd’ threat of legal challenge to Commons shutdown

Support us and go ad-free

Boris Johnson has been told to expect a legal battle with former prime minister Sir John Major if he tries to suspend Parliament in order to force through a no-deal Brexit.

Former Conservative leader Major said it would be “utterly and totally unacceptable” for any British premier to shut down Parliament, and he would seek a judicial review if it happened.

Johnson dismissed Major’s “very odd” threat of being dragged through the courts, insisting that Parliament should accept its responsibility to deliver Brexit.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

But he has refused to rule out proroguing Parliament to prevent MPs blocking a no-deal exit from the European Union on October 31.

The Tory leadership campaign frontrunner said: “What we are going to do is deliver Brexit on October 31, which is what I think the people of this country want us to get on and do.

“I think everybody is fed up with delay and I think the idea of now consecrating this decision to the judiciary is really very, very odd indeed.

“What we want is for Parliament to take their responsibilities, get it done as they promised that they would.

“They asked the British people whether they wanted to leave in 2016, the British people returned a very clear verdict, so let’s get it done.”

Sir John Major
The former Prime Minister cautioned against putting the Queen at the centre of a constitutional controversy (Yui Mok/PA)

In order to prorogue Parliament, shutting it down until the next state opening, a prime minister would have to ask the Queen to formally allow it.

Although the Queen’s decision could not be challenged, Major said the advice of the prime minister could be.

The monarch would be “in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the Queen in the middle of”, Major said.

“I for one would be prepared to go and seek judicial review to prevent Parliament being bypassed,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

The potential suspension of Parliament was one of the issues on which Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt clashed in a televised showdown on Tuesday night.

Hunt issued a stark warning about the prospect of suspending Parliament.

“When that has happened in the past, when Parliament has been shut down against its will, we actually had a civil war,” Hunt said.

Major, who is backing Hunt for the Tory leadership, said: “There is no conceivable justification, wherever we are, in closing down Parliament to bypass its sovereignty.

“I seem to recall that the Brexiteers, led by Mr Johnson, actually campaigned in the referendum for the sovereignty of Parliament… They can’t be concerned for the sovereignty of Parliament except when it is inconvenient to Mr Johnson.”

He was challenged over the timing of his decision to close down Parliament ahead of the 1997 general election, which prevented a report on the cash for questions scandal being considered by MPs.

Major said “we carried the election until almost the very last date” and it was an “absurd charge”.

The former premier, who campaigned to remain in the EU, warned the incoming prime minister not to stick rigidly to the “artificial date” for Brexit of October 31.

He warned there could be a “great deal of chaos” if businesses were not ready for a Halloween exit.

Johnson has made a “do or die” commitment to that date, while Hunt has also set it as his goal.

“This date of October 31 has a great deal more to do with the election for leader of the Conservative Party than it has with the interests of the country, and that is the wrong way round,” Major said.

“National leaders look first at the interests of the country, not first at the interests of themselves and appealing to a particular part of a small electorate for a particular post, however important that post may be.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who supports Johnson, said he did not believe Parliament would be suspended because the leadership frontrunner had the “force of personality” to bring people together and reach a deal.

Hancock, who opposed prorogation during his own leadership campaign, told Today: “I do not think that it’s going to happen, I understand why Boris hasn’t ruled it out.

“But ultimately, when you have to choose between who is going to be the next prime minister, who you want to be the next prime minister, you have to take everything into account.

“I have chosen to back Boris because he is the best person to deliver Brexit with a deal.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us