Downing Street has just confirmed that the Prime Minister will be asking the Queen to prorogue parliament ahead of a new Queen’s Speech on 14 October.
In a letter sent to MPs this morning, Boris Johnson claims that this is a move designed to put a fresh domestic programme before Parliament, writing:
‘I therefore intend to bring forward a new bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit. There will be a significant Brexit legislative programme to get through but that should be no excuse for a lack of ambition!’
The focus in the letter and in briefings from No.10 is on domestic policy, with Johnson explicitly criticising the lack of action from Theresa May. ‘Bills have been introduced, which, while worthy in their own right, have at times seemed more about filling time in both the Commons and the Lords, while key Brexit legislation has been held back to ensure it could still be considered for carry-over into a second session,’ he says, adding: ‘This cannot continue.’ This allows Johnson to argue that what he is doing is perfectly normal. It also gives the Conservatives a chance to amplify what will almost certainly be their general election pitch.
The timing of this, just 24 hours after anti-no-deal MPs were buzzing about in parliament to plot the best method of stopping Britain leaving the EU without an agreement, underlines these opponents’ weakness against a Prime Minister who is governing without a majority. It also underlines how little time they have to stop a no-deal Brexit, something they were already anxious about yesterday when they committed to cancelling the conference recess.
These opponents, who yesterday said they would focus on using legislation to block a no-deal Brexit, are now being forced back to considering the original plan of a vote of no confidence in order to force a general election. This still has all the problems that it did a couple of days ago: there aren’t currently enough Tory MPs who would support it, there are many Labour MPs who feel uncomfortable about doing anything to get Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street and the Liberal Democrats and some of the independent MPs have similarly said they wouldn’t install Corbyn either.
It’s not just about the different parties who are opposing no deal, though. Speaker Bercow has just responded, saying that ‘this move represents a constitutional outrage’. Part of Johnson’s election pitch is going to be him standing up for the people against an obstructive parliament. He will have banked on responses like this helping him.