From Theresa May to Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, a series of unelected officials have had their chance to shape the future of the UK. Now the Queen, who’s supposed to be little more than a figurehead, has the final say over the Brexit process. It’s somewhat ironic considering the original plan was to “take back control”.
Of course, that’s a slightly dramaticized take on the situation, but we’ve reached a surreal point where satirical websites struggle to outmatch current day events. “Taking back control” can refer to power from Brussels, curbing immigration, or any perceived slight on Britain, but few would have expected that parliament would have to be suspended to make it work.
The Queen arguably had little choice but to go along with Johnson’s plan, which sees parliament closed for a period between September and October.
Meanwhile, small protests have sprung up in cities across the UK, with at least 60 planned for the upcoming weekend. A significant portion of remain voters have been galvanised by the recent developments, although the suspension of parliament doesn’t seem to faze many on the other side. Speaking to BBC Radio 4, commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg argued “The candyfloss of outrage we’ve had over the last 24 hours, which I think is almost entirely confected, is from people who never wanted to leave the European Union. This is the greatest period of anger for them, or of confected anger, because after 31 October we will have left.”
He’s right that we’re close to the end game, but the sacrifices made are causing further cracks to show in an already divided country. A YouGov poll found that “Brits oppose Parliament suspension by 47% to 27%”, but a slim majority of Conservative voters agreed with Johnson’s decision.
One side see it as a blatant attempt to bypass an established democratic institution, while the other views it as a necessary measure to ensure that he gets the job done, at almost any cost.
A legal challenge has been issued by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller, while Johnson has claimed that the timing for proroguing parliament is purely coincidental.
The current parliamentary session (340 days) has been the longest without a break for over 400 years, but that’s because of the impending Brexit deadlines in October.
In any case, no new laws can be passed during the suspension, which could allow a “no deal” Brexit to be forced through by the Prime Minister.
For all of her faults, at least May entered negotiations in good faith at the beginning, which is a stark contrast to her unelected successor. She tried her best, bluffing with a weak hand for far longer than anyone could have expected, after a snap election blew up in her face. May also shunted Johnson into a Foreign Secretary role in 2016, which didn’t work to curb his inevitable rise to the top, despite a number of high-profile gaffes at the time.
While some may see the Queen being at fault for her part in the saga, she was widely expected to accept Johnson’s recommendation to maintain her political impartiality. It doesn’t sound, feel, or look democratic to have elected representatives locked out during a key stage of Brexit, but it does look increasingly likely to happen.
The new Prime Minister hasn’t won an election, and plans to force parliament to shut down while Brexit is pushed through.
It’s almost surreal, but it was always going to go down in a way that alienates roughly half of the people, perhaps more, who originally voted in the referendum.