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Parliament suspension sparks furious backlash

Media captionBoris Johnson: “We’re not going to wait until October 31st”

The prime minister’s decision to suspend Parliament has prompted an angry backlash from MPs and campaigners.

Hundreds of people protested in London on Wednesday and a petition against the move gained a million signatures.

Earlier the Queen approved Boris Johnson’s request to suspend Parliament for five weeks in September and October – weeks before the Brexit deadline.

Opponents say it will leave MPs with little time to stop a no-deal Brexit.

But cabinet minister Michael Gove insisted the suspension was “certainly not” a political move to stop MPs blocking a no deal.

Media captionMichael Gove told the BBC the move is so the PM can address domestic policies like NHS funding

Instead, he told the BBC there would be “plenty of time” to debate Brexit before the scheduled departure date of 31 October.

On Wednesday, Mr Johnson said a Queen’s Speech would take place after the suspension, on 14 October, to outline his “very exciting agenda”.

He said he did not want to wait until after Brexit “before getting on with our plans to take this country forward”.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn described it as “a smash and grab on our democracy” in order to force through a no deal by not leaving enough time to pass laws in Parliament – and pledged to try to stop the suspension.

The prime minister says he wants to leave the EU at the end of October with a deal, but is willing to leave without one rather than miss the deadline.

What has been the reaction from politicians?

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow – who does not traditionally comment on political announcements – described it as a “constitutional outrage”.

Media captionCorbyn: “What is Boris Johnson so afraid of?”

Former Tory Chancellor Philip Hammond called it “profoundly undemocratic”.

The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Jo Swinson, said it was a “dangerous and unacceptable course of action”.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said MPs must come together to stop the plan next week, or “today will go down in history as a dark one indeed for UK democracy”.

Media captionNicola Sturgeon says Boris Johnson is acting like a “tin pot dictator”

Others, though, have defended the plan.

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg, who was at the meeting with the Queen, said the move was a “completely proper constitutional procedure.”

US President Donald Trump tweeted his support for Mr Johnson, saying it “would be very hard” for Mr Corbyn to seek a no-confidence vote against the PM, “especially in light of the fact that Boris is exactly what the UK has been looking for”.

The leader of the DUP, Arlene Foster, also welcomed the decision, but said the terms of her party’s confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives would now be reviewed.

What anger has there been elsewhere?

On Wednesday evening protesters gathered in Westminster chanting “stop the coup” and carrying anti-Brexit placards and EU flags.

The demonstration – organised hours beforehand – started outside Parliament before spreading towards Downing Street.

Media captionActivists rallied across numerous UK cities after PM’s plans to suspend parliament

At the scene, BBC correspondent Richard Galpin described the atmosphere as peaceful and lively.

Several protesters he spoke to indicated this was only the beginning of the disruption, with more demonstrations being organised for the weekend.

Meanwhile, an e-petition on the government’s website demanding Parliament not be suspended had reached 970,000 signatures by 22:40 BST.

Anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller – who previously won a legal battle against ministers over Article 50 – has also made a judicial review application to the courts about Mr Johnson’s decision.

What happened on Wednesday?

Three Conservative members of the Queen’s Privy Council took the request to suspend Parliament to the monarch’s Scottish residence in Balmoral on Wednesday morning on behalf of the prime minister.

It has now been approved, allowing the government to suspend Parliament no earlier than Monday 9 September and no later than Thursday 12 September, until Monday 14 October.

Mr Johnson wrote to MPs to outline his plan, adding: “There will be a significant Brexit legislative programme to get through but that should be no excuse for a lack of ambition!”

He also called on Parliament to show “unity and resolve” in the run up to the 31 October so the government “stands a chance of securing a new deal” with the EU.

But a senior EU source told the BBC’s Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming the bloc’s position was clear and was not contingent on the machinations of the UK Parliament.

What about the legal challenge?

A number of high profile figures, including former Prime Minister John Major, have threatened to go to the courts to stop it, and a legal challenge led by the SNP’s justice spokeswoman, Joanna Cherry, is already working its way through the Scottish courts.

After the announcement, Sir John said he had “no doubt” Mr Johnson’s motive was to “bypass a sovereign Parliament that opposes his policy on Brexit”, and he would continue to seek legal advice.

It is not possible to mount a legal challenge to the Queen’s exercise of her personal prerogative powers.

But anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller – who previously won a legal battle against ministers over Article 50 – has made a judicial review application to the courts about Mr Johnson’s decision.

She told the BBC’s Clive Coleman: “If the intention of using this prorogation – and the effect – is that it limits Parliament sovereignty, then we believe that’s illegal and unconstitutional.”

Prorogation in a nutshell

Media captionWhat does proroguing Parliament mean?

Shutting down Parliament – known as prorogation – happens after the prime minister advises the Queen to do it.

BBC royal correspondent Jonny Dymond said it was established precedent to prorogue Parliament before a Queen’s Speech, albeit generally more briefly, and rarely, if ever, at such a constitutionally charged time.

Parliament is normally suspended – or prorogued – for a short period before a new parliamentary session begins, during which time no debates and votes are held.

It is different to “dissolving” Parliament – where all MPs give up their seats to campaign in a general election.

If this prorogation happens as expected, it will see Parliament closed for 23 working days.

MPs cannot block prorogation.

Parliament suspension sparks furious backlash}

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