Queen approves Government's request to suspend Parliament just weeks before Brexit deadline

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Paul Brand

The Queen has approved a request by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend Parliament just weeks before the Brexit deadline on October 31.

The extended suspension comes just a week after MPs return from their summer recess and is intended for the Government to hold a Queen's Speech - laying out their plans - on October 14.

This means Parliament will not sit for the majority of September and the first two weeks of October, returning after the Queen's Speech.

MPs are unlikely to have time to pass any laws that could stop the Prime Minister taking the UK out of the EU without a deal on October 31.

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Daniel Hewitt explains what happens next after Mr Johnson has decided to prorogue Parliament.

The announcement has already angered MPs, including House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, who described it as a "constitutional outrage".

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has written to the Queen to express concerns and request a meeting with her and other privy counsellors, it is understood.

Scottish Tory Leader Ruth Davidson is reported to be on the verge of resigning as leader.

Confirming the Government's plans on Wednesday morning, Mr Johnson said: “We need new legislation, we’ve got to be bringing forward new and important bills and that’s why we are going to have a Queen’s Speech and we are going to do it on October 14 and we have got to move ahead now with a new legislative programme.”

European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt has said Government plans to suspend Parliament are "unlikely to help deliver a stable future EU - UK relationship".

"'Taking back control' has never looked so sinister," he tweeted. "As a fellow parliamentarian, my solidarity with those fighting for their voices to be heard.

ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston said a Government source claims any vote of no confidence passed by MPs will result in Parliament being dissolved and a general election at the start of November.

Mr Johnson said that it is "completely untrue" he will be holding a Queen's Speech on October 14 because of Brexit, insisting that he had a new government with an "exciting agenda" that requires new legislation.

Responding to criticism, Mr Johnson said: “If you look at what we are doing, we are bringing forward a new legislative programme on crime, on hospitals, making sure that we have the education funding that we need and there will be ample time on both sides of that crucial October 17 summit.

“Ample time in Parliament for MPs to debate the EU to debate Brexit and all the other issues. Ample time.”

The move comes a day after around 160 MPs joined a cross-party plan to stop a no-deal Brexit by “using whatever mechanism possible”.

The plan against a no-deal exit aims to stop Mr Johnson forcing through no deal by shutting down Parliament and will see MPs "do whatever is necessary" to stop that happening.

The Queen has approved the Government's request to suspend Parliament. Credit: PA

In a letter to MPs outlining his Government's plans, Mr Johnson said he was bringing forward a "bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda" which MPs would be able to vote on in October.

He said: "A central feature of the legislative programme will be the Government's number one legislative priority, if a new deal is forthcoming at EU Council, to introduce a Withdrawal Agreement Bill and move at pace to secure its passage before 31 October."

Parliament will have the opportunity to debate the Government's approach to Brexit and then vote on October 21 and 22, he added.

Mr Johnson may yet face resistance from his own MPs once it's time for a vote, with the European Research Group's de facto whip Mark Francois telling ITV News removing the backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement is not enough.

How have MPs reacted?

House of Commons Speaker has slammed the move as a 'constitutional outrage'. Credit: PA

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow said: "I have had no contact from the Government, but if the reports that it is seeking to prorogue Parliament are confirmed, this move represents a constitutional outrage.

"However it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the purpose of prorogation now would be to stop Parliament debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping a course for the country.

"At this time, one of the most challenging periods in our nation's history, it is vital that our elected Parliament has its say. After all, we live in a parliamentary democracy."

Mr Corbyn said this is an attempt to "ride roughshod" over Parliament and prevent any legislation or debate that would stop a no-deal Brexit.

He said: "He seems to want to run headlong into the arms of Donald Trump with more determination than I've ever seen in anyone else before.

"This is extraordinary. He needs to be held to account by Parliament, not by shutting down Parliament, but by attending Parliament and answering the questions."

SNP Leader Nicola Sturgeon described the move as "completely outrageous.

She said: "This is about trying to stop a majority in Parliament coming together to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

"Now that's the kind of behaviour you expect to see in countries that are not democratic, that are ruled by dictators.

"And that's happening here in the UK. Boris Johnson, let's not forget, is not elected by anyone other than the Conservative party and here he is trying to shut down Parliament."

Labour MP Jess Phillips accused Boris Johnson of making a big gamble. Credit: PA

Former Chancellor Philip Hammond agreed the move represents a "constitutional outrage" at a time of "national crisis".

He criticised the decision as "profoundly undemocratic".

Labour MP Jess Phillips has responded to Boris Johnson's letter to MPs about Government plans to prorogue Parliament, telling him "this is not the actions of a credible Prime Minister".

"You're gambling that the trappings of office will give you an advantage in this game of chance," she wrote in a letter addressed to Mr Johnson.

"It is a mighty gamble. And for the people I represent, it is not a game."

Ms Phillips condemned the Prime Minister for treating her constituents' jobs, businesses and safety as "casino chips", and that "every right-minded member in Parliament" will fight his plan "every step of the way".

DUP Leader Arlene Foster has welcomed the move. Credit: PA

Asked to respond to people who argue the Government's decision is undemocratic, the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "They wouldn't know what they were talking about, it's a normal function of our constitution."

On fears over a no-deal Brexit, he added: "The government is working very had to get a deal as the prime minister has said."

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said a confidence motion is "now certain" and the announcement is seen as "a positive move by Brexiteers".

He also tweeted: "The unanswered question is whether Boris Johnson intends to pursue the Withdrawal Agreement."

DUP Leader Arlene Foster has welcomed the decision and said her party will continue to work with the prime minister to "strengthen the Union" and deliver a "sensible deal".

US President Donald Trump added his voice to the issue, claiming it would be "very hard" for Mr Corbyn to successfully table a no-confidence vote against the prime minister.

He tweeted Mr Johnson is "exactly what the UK has been looking for".

A petition demanding that moves to suspend Parliament are halted has smashed the 100,000 threshold and will be debated by MPs.

The petition on Parliament's website amassed the number required less than three hours after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced he planned to prorogue Parliament in order to push through his new domestic agenda.

Any petition that secures 10,000 signatures is guaranteed a government response and 100,000 names forces a debate in Parliament.