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Five-week UK Parliament shutdown begins
London, Sep. 10 (IANS): UK Parliament has officially been suspended for five weeks, with MPs not due back till October 14 following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s second failed attempt to call a snap election in October.
Parliament was suspended – or prorogued – at just before 2.00 a.m. on Tuesday. There were unprecedented scenes of chaos and anger in the House of Commons overnight as opposition MPs staged a protest against the suspension – a prorogation that House of Commons’ Speaker John Bercow called “an act of executive fiat”.
Some MPs protested against the suspension with signs saying “silenced” while shouting: “Shame on you”. Several MPs were also involved in altercation near the Speaker’s chair as they attempted to prevent him leaving his seat and attending the House of Lords, the next step in the formalities required for the suspension of Parliament, the BBC reported.
The chaos unfolded in the early hours of Tuesday morning, after a day of high drama in which Johnson lost his sixth parliamentary vote in as many days and Bercow announced his impending retirement as Speaker.
As the prorogation got underway, Bercow expressed his anger, saying it was “not a normal prorogation”.
“It is not typical. It is not standard. It’s one of the longest for decades and it represents, not just in the minds of many colleagues, but huge numbers of people outside, an act of executive fiat,” he said.
This came as Johnson’s bid to call a snap election in October was defeated for the second time. Opposition MPs refused to back it, insisting a law blocking a no-deal Brexit must be implemented first.
Parliament’s suspension means MPs will not get another chance to vote for an early election until they return, meaning a poll would not be possible until November at the earliest.
In all, only 293 of the 434 MPs voted for the Prime Minister’s motion for an early election, far short of the two thirds needed. Johnson will hold a meeting with his Cabinet in Downing Street later on Tuesday.
Late into the night, MPs also burst into song on the Commons benches, singing traditional Welsh and Scottish songs.
It is normal for new governments to suspend Parliament – it allows them to schedule a Queen’s Speech to set out a fresh legislative programme – but the length and timing of the prorogation in this case has sparked controversy.
Johnson on Monday accused opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn of “preposterous cowardice” and said he was the first opposition leader in the UK’s history to reject the opportunity to let British voters decide in an election.
Corbyn, on the other hand, said Johnson could not be allowed to dictate the terms of an election without first taking a no-deal Brexit off the table.
The Prime Minister reiterated his stance that he would not ask the European Union for a new extension to the date of Brexit’s implementation. At present, the UK law states that the country will leave the EU on October 31, regardless of whether a withdrawal deal has been agreed with Brussels or not.
But a new legislation, which was granted royal assent on Monday, changes that and will force Johnson to seek a delay to January 31, 2020 unless a deal, or a no-deal exit, is approved by MPs by October 19.
“No matter how many devices this Parliament invents to tie my hands, I will strive to get an agreement in the national interest. This government will not delay Brexit any further. We will not allow the emphatic verdict of the referendum to be slowly suffocated by further calculated drift and paralysis,” Johnson had said ahead of the vote.
He suffered another defeat on Monday as MPs backed calls for the publication of government communications relating to the suspension of Parliament and its no-deal plans.