Reaction To Johnson’s Suspension Of Parliament Is Mostly Negative

The reaction to Boris Johnson's move to suspend Parliament to force a hard Brexit is mostly negative, but there appears to be little that can be done to stop it.

The move by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament for a month in an effort to ram through a hard, no-deal, Brexit by October 31st is meeting with controversy and resignations by several top Conservative Party officials:

LONDON — Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, faced a growing and angry backlash on Thursday as his decision to suspend Parliament next month prompted protests and legal challenges, and political opponents scrambled to salvage efforts to stop a disorderly Brexit.

The normally fractious opposition swiftly united in outrage at Mr. Johnson’s maneuver on Wednesday, which brought protesters onto the streets in London and other cities across the country, while an online petition against the action drew well over a million signatures.

[What did Boris Johnson just do to Parliament? An explainer.]

The move also strained relations within Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party and prompted claims from critics that the government was trampling the conventions of the country’s unwritten Constitution, undermining its democracy.

In an overnight poll, far more Britons opposed than supported his suspension of Parliament, and angry comments calling it undemocratic peppered social media, many with the hashtag #StopTheCoup.

More from The Washington Post:

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson faced defections from senior allies Thursday as a backlash built and opponents planned legal challenges to his decision to suspend Parliament to push his Brexit plans.

The resignation of Ruth Davidson, who had been touted as a future prime minister, along with another senior Conservative in the House of Lords, was a sign of rising worry within Johnson’s ranks that the move to suspend Parliament was sidelining Britain’s elected representatives during one of the biggest political crises in generations.

Elsewhere in Europe, policymakers were jolted by the move to suspend Parliament for five weeks, which some of them said brought Britain closer to a sudden, cliff-edge Brexit that analysts say could spark food and medicine shortages. Some diplomats said they were increasingly convinced Johnson is a brutally ruthless tactician who would stop at little in a risky gambit to force both Europe and his own rebellious lawmakers into a compromise.

The resignations came after protesters jammed streets in cities around the country, including in London, Edinburgh and Manchester. Outside of Parliament, demonstrators chanted “stop the coup!” A petition calling for the government to stop the suspension quickly surged past 1 million signatures. Johnson’s adversaries promised to appeal his move in the courts. Brexit opponents were strategizing about how to use their dwindling time in Parliament to halt the relentless move toward an uncontrolled break from Europe.

Johnson sparked a torrent of criticism with his decision to ask Queen Elizabeth II to suspend Parliament for five weeks, dramatically shortening the time lawmakers have to try to block a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson has said Britain will leave the European Union by Oct. 31 with or without a deal. The majority of lawmakers in the House of Commons are opposed to leaving the bloc without a transition deal to smooth the way.

Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said that when Parliament reconvenes after summer break Tuesday, he would move immediately to pass legislation to keep the chamber open and to prevent a no-deal Brexit.

“We will be back in Parliament on Tuesday to challenge Boris Johnson on what I think is a smash-and-grab raid against our democracy,” he told Sky News. “What we’re going to do is try to politically stop him on Tuesday with a parliamentary process in order to legislate to prevent a no-deal Brexit and also to try and prevent him shutting down parliament during this utterly crucial period.” 

Opposition lawmakers will have to move fast if they are to have a chance at success. Once Parliament is suspended, no later than Sept. 12, any legislation in the pipeline is typically killed off, and lawmakers would have to start again from scratch when Parliament resumes Oct. 14.

In Davidson’s careful resignation letter, the charismatic leader avoided linking her move directly to Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament, instead focusing on family issues. But she also mentioned the “conflict I have felt over Brexit,” and the British media quickly linked the departure to Johnson’s strategy, given the timing.

Davidson’s departure after eight years leading the Scottish wing of the party is a major blow for the Conservatives, whose fortunes she helped to turn around in an area of Britain where the Conservative Party was for decades a toxic brand. 

Davidson’s resignation came shortly after that of George Young, a former cabinet minister who left his post as a government whip in the House of Lords.

 The move “risks undermining the fundamental role of parliament at a critical time in our history, and reinforces the view that the Government may not have the confidence of the House for its Brexit policy, Young wrote.

On Thursday, David Lidington, the effective deputy prime minister in the previous administration of Theresa May — who remains a nominal ally of Johnson — said the suspension was “not a good way to do democracy” and “sets a very bad precedent for future governments.” He told the BBC that if the opposition Labour Party had done something similar, “some of my Tory colleagues who are cheering at the moment would be turning purple with rage.”

Johnson’s government insists they are not doing anything unusual and that it is normal for a new prime minister to suspend Parliament ahead of the queen’s speech presenting the country’s legislative agenda.

It generally does happen every year, but the length of the suspension — the longest since 1945 — and the timing have drawn widespread criticism.

Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party is vowing to attempt to block the suspension of Parliament when the House of Commons reconvenes next week, but his time to act will be extremely limited. Additionally, some descriptions of the impact of what Johnson has done suggest that any move to open debate on whether Parliament should be suspended for as long as Johnson is asking must, pursuant to existing rules, be delayed until after Parliament reconvenes in October. Given the fact that, at the point, the nation will be barely two weeks away from a hard Brexit the debate will essentially be moot by that point. This will be especially true if the forces opposed to a no-deal Brexit inside Parliament want to try to do whatever it is they are able to do to delay the inevitable.

Rather than stopping the suspension of Parliament, the other option that is reportedly being considered is a no-confidence vote that would trigger a new election. The problem with that strategy is two-fold. First, it would require a majority vote in the House of Commons and it’snot at all clear that there’s any realistic possibility of this happening. In order for it to happen, Corbyn would have to have the support of at least a handful of Tory MPs who are opposed to Brexit or the support of members of the Democratic Unionist Party, the party from Northern Ireland that Theresa May negotiated a coalition agreement with in order to be able to form her government after the 2017 election. The odds of the first happening seem to be pretty low, as do the odds of the second and one of the main reason for that appears to by Corbyn himself, with even many members of the Labour Party reluctant to see Corbyn be the person who moves into No. 10 in place of Johnson. Given this, the odds that there will be anything that can be done in Parliament to stop a hard Brexit seem to be somewhere between slim and none.

In addition to these moves in Parliament, there are apparently also lawsuit being drafted in an effort to stop Johnson from getting his way. Since I’m not at all familiar with British law I am not going to comment on the legality of what he’s doing, but based on what I’ve read it appears that he was entirely within his authority to ask the Queen for the extended suspension and that there’s basically nothing that can be done about it. If a British court were to rule otherwise, they would effectively be saying that the Queen herself can be ordered by one of her Judges to do or not do something, and while that’s not at all uncommon in the United States it would be unprecedented in the United Kingdom.

All of this is a long way of saying that it looks as though Britain is headed for the hard Brexit that Johnson wants on October 31st. What happens after that is something we’ll have to wait to see. It could be that the aftermath is such a disaster that Johnson’s government quickly collapses and we end up seeing new elections before the end of the year or early in 2020. Until then, the United Kingdom is basically now on autopilot to crash through the Brexit deadline and nothing can be done to stop that. Only the aftermath will tell us, and the British, if that will be a good thing.

FILED UNDER: Brexit, Europe, United Kingdom, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook


  1. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Expect that “the Donald” will be considering how he can “suspend” the House of Representatives.

  2. @Bob@Youngstown:

    The Constitution gives the President the power to call Congress back into session. It does not give him the authority to force the suspension of Congress.

  3. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    True. But what does that have to do with the price of beer?

    On other things, Napoleon must be turning in his grave. It’s as though Britain is demanding Europe adopt the Continental System

  4. Mister Bluster says:

    @Doug Mataconis:..It does not give him the authority to force the suspension of Congress.

    I’ll bet Trump doesn’t know that and I wouldn’t put it past him to try.

    Trump Thinks the Constitution Gives Him ‘The Right to Do Whatever I Want As President’
    “Then I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president, but I don’t even talk about that,” Trump told a crowd at a Turning Point USA conference in Washington, D.C.

  5. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    You know, for a Constitutional article that gives him the right to do whatever he wants, it certainly expends a lot of words saying nothing like that at all.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    Problem is, the Opposition to Boris has been frittering its time away wrangling about Who’s Gonna Be On Top for so long that the average Brit doesn’t have much sympathy for them getting flat-footed by this trick. Everyone knew that Boris could prorogue Parliament and in fact had threatened to do so–but the anti-Brexit crowd couldn’t get their sh*t together sufficiently to do something about it.

    I think the Brits are now so Brexit-weary that the majority honestly don’t care at present which way the platter falls. They just want a decision, something done even if it’s a horrible crash out just so they don’t have to be left hanging any more.

    Theresa May really did do a number on everyone.

  7. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy: Clearly Dimwit Don was thinking of Article XII.
    Not Article II.

  8. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Actually, for Dennison that makes much better sense. It’s far easier to misrepresent a document that cannot be seen, right?

    But we range too far off topic.

    Is there an equivalent to impeachment and removal in GB?

  9. Carol says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Moscow Mitch has already suspended the senate.

  10. Jay L Gischer says:

    I saw recently where Corbyn has said he will stop setting conditions for the cooperation of the Labor Party in stopping a hard Brexit. Which means if they can get their act together, they have three days to torpedo the whole thing.

    Whatever else you can say about BoJo, he’s managed to get everyone focused on the actual issue.

  11. Mister Bluster says:

    I studied comparative government in college 50 years ago. I am certain I learned about the British parliamentary system.
    All I vaguely remember is something called a vote of confidence.
    Also know that England, Great Britain and the United Kingdom are three different entities but can’t say what they are without looking it up.

  12. JohnSF says:

    I’m increasingly thinking Johnson and Cummings have made a mistake.

    Their plan has infuriated opponents without fully closing down their opportunity for a counter-strike. The government is still engaged in frantic damage limitation scrambles. There are rumours that several Special Advisers have been summarily dismissed by Cummings, including the Chancellor’s media liason in arguments over “sanitising” past comments re. prorogation.

    The opposition coalition is growing and solidifying. If they are solid they have the numbers to prevail in Commons, and to follow the escalating steps if necessary: legislate to require extension, vote of no confidence, installation of emergency coalition government, referendum legislation, provision for revocation.

    Labour have shown some indications of possibly accepting a “neutral” temporary PM in and emergency government pending elections.
    Even more significantly, perhaps, Conservative MP Kenneth Clarke, a major figure in the Commons, has stated he is now willing to consider Corbyn as PM of a temporary coalition.

    Lord Young, Conservative veteran (junior minister under Margaret Thatcher, a Cabinet Minister and Secretary of State under John Major, Cabinet member and Chief Whip under Cameron) has resigned in protest.

    David Gauke, former Lord Chancellor, has called for a coordinated counter in Parliament when it reconvenes next week.

    Former Attorney General Bomic Grieve has stated he is willing to bring down the government.

    Other Conservative MPs stating willingness to vote down in a confidence vote include former ministers Oliver Letwin, Richard Harrington, Guto Bebb, among others.

    Ruth Davidson, Conservative leader in Scotland, has resigned, citing personal reasons, but her distaste for Johnson is widely known.

    Commons Speaker John Bercow has made it plain he will resist government attempts to hijack the parliamentary agenda.

    Above all, the Cummings strategy of multiple open option, flexible response, and pressurising opponents while solidifying the base may be all very well; but when the time comes to actually pick a specific course, the smartarse juggling act has to stop.
    And (to mix the metaphors) playing chicken with multiple opponents, at least one of which is a locomotive, may not end as you hoped.

  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    The problem is that after the vote of no confidence, Johnson has X days to try and form a new government, and if that fails, a general election starts which takes at least Y days.

    If they don’t vote him out before the suspension starts, then doing it after they get back makes it so that Brexit happens before X + Y days elapse, allowing Johnson to run out the clock.

  14. Jen says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Theresa May really did do a number on everyone.

    I still blame Cameron. He is the one who didn’t think through the ramifications and put this to a *simple majority vote.* What utter hubris.

  15. John McCann says:

    @Mister Bluster: I remember that! And something about a ‘Long Parliament’ that refused to be prorogued for twenty years. But that was back when men were men. It was 1620 to 1640. Even before my time!

  16. grumpy realist says:

    @Jen: Yes, Cameron was an idiot because of not defining the two choices sufficiently (although that was probably intentional in order to scoop as many people up under the Brexit option as possible) and also because a simple majority for a drastic change like this was just ridiculous. But Theresa May continued the stupidity by ignoring the inconsistencies her “red lines” imposed and also because she remained more interested in keeping the Tory Party together than actually looking at the logistics that a movement out of the EU required. It was always “let’s just make it up” and leaving terms ambiguous and ill-defined in hopes that the problems of departure would just somehow disappear. And Theresa surrounded herself with equivalent sloppy intellects who never bothered to plan or prepare for anything.

    The Brits are going to discover the hard way that when you’re not at the top of an empire such amateurism really doesn’t work.

  17. Kathy says:

    I’m assuming any deal Boris negotiates has to be approved by Parliament. If so, then I see two possibilities in order of likelihood:

    1) He won’t reach a deal, and just let the Halloween deadline expire and go HARD Brexit!!1!! There, FACE! You ain’t so pretty without your nose, are ya!

    2) He’ll negotiate some deal, then give parliament like two seconds for an up or down vote, which will be up because a no-deal Brexit is just bananas.

    2.1) He does as described above, but Parliament votes down, because “There, FACE! You ain’t so pretty without your nose, are ya!” I fear sometimes that insanity is contagious.

    If he doesn’t need approval, then I’m stumped as why May didn’t just push her deal through.

    The moral of the story is that bad politics begets bad policies.

  18. Sleeping Dog says:

    Let’s game this a bit. A hard Brexit occurs, the UK economy collapses, finally a no confidence vote and elections. Will Boris even be the head of the Conservative party by that time. Appears to be a suicide to me.

  19. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Mister Bluster: When I took a Western Civ. class during grad school, I was told that Great Britain was England, Scotland, and Wales, and became the United Kingdom after Ireland was absorbed in 1801 (unjustly, if you happen to be a Republican [not GOP]).

  20. JohnSF says:

    An update: the rumour of dismissal of advisers by Cummings is confirmed
    This looks like a humiliation for Chancellor Javid.

  21. JohnSF says:

    A deal does require Parliamentary approval.

    Though arguably if it was purely a treaty the government could implement it through prerogative.
    In practice not, as
    1) it has financial etc. requirements be
    2) it would be politically unacceptable to Remainers and Leavers of all types
    3) the EU would be very unlikely to agree a deal subject to such shenanigans

    No Deal is currently the default state come 1 November
    unless UK and EU agree a deal which Parliament approves
    or UK requests and EU grants an extension
    or UK revokes Article 50.

    The problem has always been that hardline Leavers (ERG) reject any deal which involves full Single Market membership and Customs Union alignment;
    the DUP are unwilling to accept the NI-only backstop this implies;
    therefore ERG and DUP default to No Deal;
    while more sensible Leavers and ex-Remainers are unwilling to accept the economic damage of No Deal but also cannot bring themselves to vote for leaving SM/CU because of the economic disruption of that is less than No Deal but still very bad

    For these reasons the anti-NoDeal coaltion is now looking to means of either legislation that binds the government and/or vote of no confidence AND install emergency government.

  22. JohnSF says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Not exactly, which is why anti-No Deal alliance has a counter move if they are organised enough to use it:
    Under the 2011 Act, after loosing a vote of no confidence there are 14 days, before the general election becomes mandated, for a motion of confidence to be passed in the current OR ALTERNATIVE government.

    So the rebels COULD install a caretaker PM and move from there: permutations of EU agreed extension, new SM/CU deal, referendum, emergency revocation, general election.

    Some Brexit ultras have suggested that in such case, Johnson should then defy Parliament and simply refuse to quit until 1 November when No Deal becomes irrevocable. That would trigger the mother of all constitutional crises.
    That shows how unhinged the ultras have become.

  23. grumpy realist says:

    Lifted from an ABCNews article:

    Meanwhile, France’s junior minister for European affairs, Aurelie de Montchalin, said on BFM television that “given how things are going, it’s probable” that Britain will leave on Oct. 31 with no plans for how to handle trade, travel and cross-border business the next morning.

    I’m starting to think this is more and more possible. The Tories are terrified of being “out-righted” by Farage, who has no plans whatsoever aside from crashing out but takes mischievous delight at bellowing epithets at anyone trying to come up with any sort of a plan.

    At some point people are going to have to realise that trying to blackmail the EU with Britain’s own incompetence just isn’t going to work.

  24. KM says:

    @grumpy realist :

    At some point people are going to have to realise that trying to blackmail the EU with Britain’s own incompetence just isn’t going to work.

    Your optimism in the face of reality is refreshing. These people are the type to only have their “Oh Shit!!” moment a split-second from the ground after running headlong towards a cliff for days. They’re the people who ignore all the symptoms of cancer, tell the doctor they’re lying when an early diagnosis is given but demand radical treatment for Stage IV and refuse to accept the fact they have weeks at best to live.

    It’s all going to go to hell. It’s just a matter of degree at this point. Leavers with a brain will panic but it will be far too late – any deal they’ll try and cut will cause their brethren to turn on them and become more stubborn. Stiff upper lip and all that, Britain’s survived far worse. By the time they’ve gotten a majority of the populace with serious buyer’s remorse, the cancer will have metastasized and the ground’s coming up too fast for a parachute.

    I pity the millions of UK citizens who live outside of Britain’s shores – they’re about to be put in a a terrible spot of becoming illegal aliens in their own house, maybe even become homeless overnight. I pity the youth who will have to live with the consequences of their xenophobic elders destroying their country. I pity anyone who needs life-savaging medication and hope they were able to build up a supply to hold them. But most of all, I pity anyone who looked at these trolls, con men and flat-out evil manipulative bastards and went, yeah I’m willing to buy what he’s selling. There’s no cure for that kind of stupidity.

  25. gVOR08 says:

    I keep being reminded of reading A War It Was Always Going to Lose, an account of Japan’s descent into war with the US. They knew they’d lose, and loss would be disastrous, but somehow at each step continuing down the path was preferable to changing. The immediate loss of career, perhaps even assassination, of any leader who stood up and said, ‘Wait, this is nuts, let’s get off this train.’ outweighed any long term consequence to the nation.

  26. KM says:

    Sunk cost fallacy can be a bitch. So too can being the messenger of bad news – there’s always the chance it’s your head on the chopping block. It results in a horrible negative feedback cycle wherein people keep kicking the can down the road or not speaking up as they hurtle towards disaster. They always think someone else will *have* to step up or will realize the consequences and be braver then they are…… not understanding that by letting things get worse, they’re increasing the pressure and making it far less likely someone is going to stand up. Hoping a crisis will cause people to come to their senses is foolish but then again, humanity is nothing but a bunch of fools pretending we’re wise.

  27. Kathy says:


    The problem has always been that hardline Leavers (ERG) reject any deal which involves full Single Market membership and Customs Union alignment;

    So in addition to being pro-Brexit, they are anti-best deal.

    I wonder if they realize how insane this looks to the rest of the world.

  28. @Jen:

    I still blame Cameron.

    As well you should.

  29. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    So in addition to being pro-Brexit, they are anti-best deal.

    Basically, yeah.

    I wonder if they realize how insane this looks to the rest of the world.

    Do MAGAots realize how insane voting for Trump looked/was? No one sees their own situation rationally; at least most of us don’t.

    There wouldn’t be NASCAR if we did. (Or abortive attempts at breaking land speed records. Rest in Peace, Jessi Combs, and condolences to her loved ones.)

  30. JohnSF says:

    The ERG/Brexit Party Leavers have adopted the view that participating in the EU Single Market is unacceptable as “vassalage” to the European Court of Justice (because any such scheme requires an adjudication mechanism) and because the free movement of labour riles their anti-migrant base.

    This is infuriating, as before the referendum numerous leavers lauded Norway, which is a Single Market member but outside the EU. (Or Switzerland which has similar arrangements).
    I for one am fairly sure that had the hardliners explicitly ruled out SM/CA before the referendum, they’d have lost.

    And indeed they’re still “baiting and switching” by misleading supporters that a basic Free Trade Area would effectively replicate the Single Market.

    In fact the EU have always been clear: in the post-withdrawal trade talks they are quite happy with a FTA, or with EEA/EFTA type SM/CA, or various points between SO LONG AS any deal short of SM/CA recognised the special requirements of Ireland to no visible borders or new impediments to trade between Ireland and UK Northern Ireland.

    Had May not caved to the hardliners, and shared their readiness to politicise migration, this whole sorry affair could have been amicably resolved with EEA-type deal months ago, leaving the diehards like Farage etc to carp from the sidelines.
    Some Remainers might have grumbled, but IMHO an overwhelming majority would have accepted the “least bad” option.

    But of course, May feared that left the Conservative voter base vulnerable to a UKIP/Brexit Party remnant 5 to 10% vote.

    Exactly the same reason Cameron called the referendum in the first place..

    Party before Country.

    Faeces flinging flying demon monkeys pursue them both.

  31. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    I’ve often wondered whether those who are actually insane realize they are.

    Objectively, foregoing privileged access to the world’s wealthiest market is at the least massively stupid.

  32. JohnSF says:

    Another updatey nugget: John Major is announced he is supporting a legal case being brought against prorogation.

    That is: a former Conservative Prime Minister is declaring the current Conservative PM is acting unlawfully.

    Full on Tory Civil War has arrived.

  33. Just nutha ignint says:

    Had May not caved to the hardliners, and shared their readiness to politicise migration…

    For conservatives in the US politicising migration is kind of an immutable value of the movement. Is that not the case in the UK?

  34. Kathy says:


    And indeed they’re still “baiting and switching” by misleading supporters that a basic Free Trade Area would effectively replicate the Single Market.

    Looks more like what they really want is “Splendid Isolation.”

  35. JohnSF says:

    @Just nutha ignint:
    There has always been a tendency to this; but the European migration aspect only became prominent when they were in opposition against Blair post-Single Market and East European expansion (largely as camouflage IMHO).
    Re. the blatant racism of (some) Conservatives in the c.1950-2000, google the Monday Club sometime. A nasty bunch, to put it mildly.

    In relation to EU migration, the Cameron/Osborne approach was to fob off the right with vague “aspirations” of reducing total migration, though Osborne hardly concealed his agreement with the Blair/Brown policy of immigration as an economic benefit.

    They stuck May as Home Secretary with responsibility for control, while refusing her the funds or political backing for means to do so. A policy that by some accounts amused Osborne enormously; which in turn explains May’s purge of the Cameron/Osborne faction.

    In fact large numbers of Leavers completely misunderstand the role of the EU re. migration.
    Non-EU migration, about half the total, is entirely a state competency.
    As are asylum seekers; though EU requires members to adhere to UN and ECHR rules, that allows a LOT of variance e.g. compare Germany and Hungary.

    EU Single Market rules are for free movement of labour not free movement of people.
    States can, and do, expel EU citizens who are not economically self-supporting after a three month period.
    The UK is unusual in that it just never bothered to enforce this. And the Conservatives blithely blamed the EU for their own policy.

  36. JohnSF says:

    If it was a policy of Splendid Isolation it would be almost forgivable.

    (Though in practice it would be more like Squalid Isolation IMHO.)

    But instead its Stupid Exceptionalism; the fools tend to think is that an FTA entails, or they can force the EU to concede, UK effective Single Market membership without free movement, ECJ jurisdiction, or budget contributions. And allow the UK to diverge on regulations etc to undercut EU locally or in deals with the USA or China.

    Or else even more delusional beliefs that if such “cakeism” fails, UK can readily substitute more distant, often less developed, markets/suppliers for the closest, largest, richest, most deeply integrated economic zone on the planet.

  37. David says:

    Boris Johnson did a great move in suspending Parliament. Now he can do what the people voted on. You need to get out of the European Union totally. Just like the America needs to get rid of the FED.