UK reacts angrily to Johnson′s decision to suspend Parliament | News | DW | 29.08.2019
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UK reacts angrily to Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament

The British people took to the streets of London to vent their anger at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to prorogue Parliament. Lawmakers have also reacted with indignation, comparing the move to a coup d'etat.

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Jeremy Corbyn: 'I have protested in the strongest possible terms'

The flurry of resignations anticipated following British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's decision to suspend Parliament did not happen on Wednesday, but the fallout did spill onto the streets of London, with a mass protest organized at short notice outside the Houses of Parliament.

Labour lawmaker Hilary Benn told DW that it was not "entirely clear" whether Parliament could stop Johnson's prorogation. However, Benn said he believed the deputies would try to pass legislation that would force another extension of the Brexit deadline.

"We'll just have to be more effective than he is," Benn said, referring to Johnson.

Benn restated his support for another public vote on Brexit.

"The only way out of this is to go back to the British people," he said. "Let the British people take the final decision as they did in the referendum in 2016."

Chief whip resigns

Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson quit her role early on Thursday, albeit citing demands on her time as a new mother rather than the Brexit process as the reason. Davidson did, however, mention "the conflict I have felt over Brexit" prominently in her resignation letter.

Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Amber Rudd, seen as one of the more committed "soft Brexiters" in Johnson's Cabinet, lamented the expected loss of Davidson in a tweet but did not comment on her own position. "Ruth Davidson is a wonderful talent and person, and we owe her a tremendous debt for turning our fortunes around in Scotland," Rudd wrote. "Our Party is a better one with her in it and I hope she will continue to contribute to public life."

George Young, the chief whip in the House of Lords, also resigned, saying he was very unhappy at the timing and length of the prorogation and its motive. 

"I have been unpersuaded by the reasons given for that decision, which I believe 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," he said.

Johnson: 'There will be ample time' for Brexit

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn described the proroguing as a "constitutional outrage" while Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said Johnson's move was "dangerous and unacceptable."Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to condemn the PM's decision, too. "It's not democracy," she told the BBC. "It's dictatorship. And, if MPs don't find a way of coming together to stop Boris Johnson in his tracks, then today will go down in history as the day any semblance of UK democracy died."

Parliament is set to be closed down from mid-September and reopened on October 14, just over two weeks ahead of Britain's scheduled exit from the EU.

Johnson denied that he was trying to silence lawmakers. "There will be ample time in Parliament for MPs to debate Brexit," he said.

The Labour Party announced that it would seek an emergency debate on Brexit next week, hoping to introduce legislation that would block a no-deal Brexit.

Reactions spill over

Thousands of people made their way to Parliament Square at short notice, advertising their efforts with the social media hash tag #StopTheCoup.

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott joined demonstrators who were chanting "No one voted for Boris," in reference to the fact that just 92,153 members of the Conservative Party elected him, from a UK population of 66 million. She tweeted pictures of herself along with placards lamenting the loss of democracy. She said: "Big turnout outside Parliament for the protest against  @BorisJohnson shutting down Parliament #StopTheCoup."

Fellow Labour MP Clive Lewis tweeted that he would enter Parliament and not leave. "If Boris shuts down Parliament to carry out his No-Deal Brexit, I and other MPs will defend democracy," he wrote. "The police will have to remove us from the chamber. We will call on people to take to the streets."

Even the queen was unable to stop the closure of Parliament, with House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg saying there was no precedent for her intervention.

He called on the EU to renegotiate the deal, saying the UK would prefer to leave without a deal than suffer through "vassalage."

Meanwhile, a petition titled "Do Not Prorogue Parliament' had reached 1.3 million signatures by midday Thursday. The petition's webpage said: "Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK's intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled."

It is not the first of its kind. A petition earlier this year asking the British government to reverse its course on Brexit received more than 4.5 million signatures in just three days. The request appeared to fall on deaf ears, with Wednesday's development only giving further weight to that notion.

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