Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to seek a suspension of Parliament in September, before recommencing just 17 days before the scheduled Brexit date, has prompted many questions from our readers.
The idea of shutting down Parliament in this way – known as prorogation – has caused controversy in political circles, with critics saying it would stop MPs being able to play their democratic part in the Brexit process in the run-up to the planned exit date of 31 October.
We chose a sample of the questions we received from readers on this subject. Where we didn’t know the answer, we enlisted the experts.
1. Could the Queen say no? – David Stephens
It will be impossible for the Queen to turn down the prime minister’s request, our royal correspondent Jonny Dymond writes.
The Queen acts on the advice of her prime minister.
While many, many people may be upset that Parliament is not going to sit at such time, precedent is on the side of those making this decision.
The idea is these things are settled in the Palace of Westminster, not Buckingham Palace.
The Queen has very little wriggle room to make any kind of political decision.
2. Could this lead to an early general election? – David Kuester
Suspending Parliament might well trigger an election, says the Institute for Government’s Hannah White.
She writes: “If a prime minister sought a prorogation in such controversial circumstances, then it seems highly likely that the Palace would look for ways to limit the Queen being drawn into the process.
“This might include hesitating long enough to allow Parliament the opportunity to send a Humble Address to Her Majesty (a direct message rejecting prorogation and/or the authority of the prime minister), or agreeing a motion of no confidence.”
Ms White says it is “probable” the Speaker John Bercow – who has already called the government’s plan an offence against the democratic process – will find an opportunity for the House of Commons to consider a motion, even if the government does not provide time.
If a majority of MPs vote against the government, a formal process kicks off under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act.
This provides a two-week period in which an alternative government could attempt to command a majority before a general election is triggered.
Ms White adds that attempt to prorogue Parliament to pursue a no-deal policy is likely to prompt an election. “That may even be the intention,” she says.
3. Doesn’t this bring the Queen into the Brexit debate? – Teddy Greenwood
Ms White says: “Asking the Queen to give effect to this strategy would draw her into a massive political debate – something which Number 10 and the Palace are normally at great pains to avoid.”
4. How long is the normal period of suspension before a Queen’s speech? – Anon
It’s normal for new governments to shut down Parliament in order to hold a Queen’s Speech.
The length of time varies – in 2016 Parliament was closed for four working days, while in 2014 it was closed for 13 days.
This year, Parliament would be suspended for 23 working days before the new Queen’s speech on 14 October.
5. Can the opposition parties stop Boris Johnson proroguing Parliament? – Anon
In July, former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major threatened to use the courts to stop Parliament from being shut down.
He told BBC News: “The Queen’s decision cannot be challenged in law but the prime minister’s advice to the Queen can, I believe, be challenged in law – and I for one would be prepared to seek judicial review to prevent Parliament being bypassed.”
- Major: I will seek a judicial review to stop Parliament shutdown
- Do MPs have the power to stop a no-deal Brexit?
While some believe a legal challenge could work, a source close to Boris Johnson told BBC News the threat of court action was “absurd”.