ANALYSIS - Dubbing Commons Prorogation As Coup Unhelpful, Johnson Faces 'Abuse Of Procedure' At Worst


ANALYSIS - Dubbing Commons Prorogation as Coup Unhelpful, Johnson Faces 'Abuse of Procedure' at Worst

LONDON (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 13th September, 2019) Attempts by opposition to portray UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's move to prorogue parliament as a coup are nothing but unhelpful and use "inflammatory language," with the decision obviously representing the prime minister's attempt to take on his Brexit opponents as part of "parliamentary games" they are waging against each other, experts told Sputnik.

Johnson's decision to prorogue parliament from September 10 until October 14 has provoked a huge backlash well before it was enacted. The move, which was meant to reduce chances for the legislature to stop a no-deal Brexit, has led to "Stop the Coup" street protests across the country just after the relevant order was approved by the Queen. A petition against the decision has since swiftly drawn over 1.5 million signatures.

In addition, days before the shutdown, a bipartisan group of lawmakers did pass a law obligating Johnson to ask for another Brexit delay unless a deal has been agreed with the bloc or the parliament votes for a no-deal by October 19.

The matter has become even more complex after the Court of Session of Scotland, which voted in the 2016 referendum against Brexit, ruled on Wednesday unanimously that the prorogation was "unlawful" and amounted to an "improper purpose of stymieing Parliament." It notably came after the High Court in England ruled that the move was "inherently political in nature" and thus not subject to legal standards. On Thursday, the Belfast High Court echoed this decision.

The final word will be delivered by the UK Supreme Court on September 17, with opposition persisting in their claim that the prorogation amounts to a "coup."


Experts, however, note that opposition at times uses "inflammatory" rhetoric. Rather than a coup taking place, as it has been argued, what may be really happening is a political manoeuvre on the part of the government, whose consequences have yet to be played out.

"This isn't a coup at all. At worst, it's an abuse of procedure, but one that can be addressed by the existing checks and balances of the UK system. That doesn't mean it isn't serious, but it does mean that we have to be careful to avoid inflammatory language," Simon Usherwood, a deputy director for think tank The UK in a Changing Europe, told Sputnik.

Speaking to Sputnik from Wales on the day of one of the first anti-prorogation protests on August 31, Robert Griffiths, the general secretary of the Communist Party of Britain, similarly cast doubt on whether a "coup" was taking place. He, however, admitted that the prime minister was looking to "draw down" the available time in which further anti-Brexit legislation could be introduced.

"It's not the reason he's explained publicly in terms of the need to have a fresh Queen's speech, but he's done it at this particular point and in this way is to draw down the time available for anti-Brexit MPs to use a range of Parliamentary devices to prevent Brexit," Griffiths said.

According to Griffiths, Johnson has "taken them on at their own game," since they are "both playing Parliamentary games," while whether the prime minister is going to be successful or not is unclear.

The Communist Party leader also argued that there was a legitimate historical precedent for such a move, noting that the post-war Labour government had in fact done such a thing, as well as the John Major cabinet.


Since parliament passed legislation compelling Johnson to seek an extension to the exit date in the event he is unable to gain parliamentary approval for either a no-deal or a new withdrawal agreement, Johnson has shown little sign of compliance with what he has dubbed a "surrender bill."

He even claimed that he would rather "die in a ditch" than ask the European Union for another extension to the country's leaving date of October 31.

According to Usherwood, "it's hard to see how the government could wriggle out" of following the provisions of the law that is "pretty unambiguous" about Johnson's obligation to ask for a delay.

"That [refusal to obey this law] would be a very major blow to the principles of the British constitution and one that would not be taken at all lightly. If nothing else, it would establish a new precedent that could be used by another government for some other purpose. If it did happen, then the response from Parliament would be swift and substantial, seeking legal remedies to force the government to comply with the law," the expert said.

When asked about the likelihood of the UK government being able to pass a new deal, Usherwood suggested that there was some room for maneuver, stressing that it was only London that could come up with fresh proposals.

"The EU has always been willing to consider another form of agreement on the issues on the table, as long as it meets their requirements: the problem has always been that the UK has not been able to advance such alternatives," he opined.

According to Usherwood, "the EU doesn't see why it should sort out the UK's problems on this front, especially when the UK doesn't seem to know what it does want."


Euroskeptics, however, remain optimistic that Johnson will stick to his word.

"I think it was understood that the referendum vote, across the whole political sphere, was meant to be binding. We were supposed to be out of the European Union on the 29th of March of this year. There are quite a few hurdles to pass yet. I doubt Boris will ask for an extension. We will see," Graham Eardley, the chairman of the UK Independence Party's Walsall branch, told Sputnik.

He recalled that at the moment the only deal on the table was the European Union Withdrawal Agreement, endorsed by former Prime Minister Theresa May and thrice rejected by the UK parliament.

"They [the EU] don't seem to want to budge from that. So if people on both sides remain intransigent come October 31st we'll leave without a deal," Eardley said.

The main thorny issue around the withdrawal agreement agreed by May is the Irish backstop, which stipulates that the United Kingdom will remain in the EU Customs Union, with Northern Ireland complying with some of EU Single Market rules, in case no comprehensive agreement is reached by the agreed time after the country's withdrawal.

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