An Explanation of Parliamentary Prorogation

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Tuesday, September 3, 2019


To those who don’t know the news that’s coming out of the UK, here’s the lowdown. Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Her Majesty The Queen to ask her to prorogue parliament. The Queen assented, allowing the PM to prorogue for four days.

Of course, this has sparked a massive outcry. Let’s dial it back to explain to non-Brits.

Prorogation refers to a suspension of Parliament, but it is not the same as dissolutionas it would during a general election. This is marked with a ceremony in the upper house, the House of Lords, and a speech by the Queen to outline the government’s plans for the coming time. In this case, Parliament will be prorogued for four days, allowing for the Queen’s speech to take place later in the autumn. To do this, there must be permission from the Sovereign.

Johnson is doing this to halt his opposition from preventing a No Deal Brexit or a softer leave. MPs from across the house, including those from Johnson’s Conservative Party, are opposed to a No Deal and are scrambling to find a way to prevent it. This has been tried before, but their urgency is increased due to the deadline that Johnson has set: that the UK will have left the EU on or before the 31  of October. 

Proroguing is actually extremely common in Parliament and it usually happens once a year. Due to the lack of a written constitution in the UK, there is no way of deciding the legality of it. Historical precedent makes it legal, but many would still try to challenge it in courts. As for the Queen, she could have simply refused, but her position of being seen as “above” politics would have made it difficult for her to do so.

When Parliament is not in session, it makes it very difficult for the opposition to plan debates, scrutinise legislation, or propose any new legislation. As one can imagine, Johnson’s decision has been extremely controversial. 

Ardent supporters of remaining in the EU are appalled and believe they are being silenced, while leave voters are in favour; they believe their democratic decision will be implemented this way. Of course, this is not set in stone, as both sides may have differing beliefs in this case. 

The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is furious and is likely to attempt to find a way to change this. Bercow is supposed to be politically neutral as he had to give up his party membership for the role, but he is still seen by most as an “arch-remainer.”

Unless the courts find a way to prevent prorogation, Johnson will get his four day wish. A vote of no confidence could be called (VONC), and the Opposition Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is threatening to call one. The minority status of the government, however, ensures that it could very well passalong with the help of conservative rebels.

As October 31 draws closer, British politics is likely to reach a fever pitch. It remains to be seen as to what Parliament will choose to do and whether it is a constitutional crisis. Proroguing Parliament will happen again, and that we know for sure—it’s just a case of when.

Sarah is a student at Lancaster University in the U.K. and is a member of the Conservative Party. She writes for several conservative blogs, including her own. Her dream is to work in the White House one day (especially in a Haley administration).

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Sarah Stook

Lancaster University

Sarah is a student at Lancaster University in the U.K. and is a member of the Conservative Party. She writes for several conservative blogs, including her own. Her dream is to work in the White House one day (especially in a Haley administration).

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