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Boris Johnson Brexit plan to suspend the UK’s parliament is a trap

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United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday confirmed his long-rumoured plan to shut down the Houses of Parliament as part of what opponents believe is an attempt to force through Brexit.

The request, which was agreed by the Queen as part of the UK’s antiquated constitution, is political dynamite and has drawn condemnation from Members of Parliament across the House of Commons, including within his own party.

Johnson’s opponents accused him of suspending democracy and riding roughshod over the UK’s constitutional norms.

Read more: The Queen agrees to Boris Johnson’s request to shut down Parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit

Read more: Jeremy Corbyn requests urgent meeting with the Queen to demand she blocks Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan to shut down Parliament

So is Johnson really planning to overturn democracy in Britain or is this all part of a plan to outmaneuver his opponents and cement his place in power?

Boris Johnson has promised to deliver Brexit ‘do or die’

Reuters

The UK’s planned exit from the EU has so far been twice delayed after MPs refused to ratify the Withdrawal Agreement which former Prime Minister Theresa May signed up to with European leaders.

Johnson, who helped lead the campaign for Brexit in 2016, won the contest to replace May largely on his promise to push the UK’s exit through by the end of October “do or die,” even if it means leaving without a deal.

The problem for Johnson is that he has inherited a minority government from May, which means that he only has two real means of fulfilling this promise.

The first is to negotiate and then pass a new agreement with the EU in just a matter of weeks. The second is to simply run down the clock until the end of the latest Brexit extension on October 31 and allow the UK to leave without a deal.

The first of these options is unlikely. There is little time left to agree a new deal with the EU and little willingness on European leaders’ parts to agree to Johnson’s demands that the controversial Northern Ireland backstop element of the deal is ripped up. Even if both sides were to come to a new agreement, Johnson’s minority government would almost certainly fail to pass it through Parliament, just as May’s government did before him.

This then only leaves Johnson one real option, which is a no-deal Brexit. However, MPs have repeatedly voted against the principle of leaving the EU without a deal, and are planning to pass legislation early next month which could in theory prevent Johnson from going ahead with that course of action.

Johnson’s decision to push ahead with suspending Parliament is therefore the clearest signal yet that he intends to follow through on his promise to leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal.

But is this all really a bluff designed to win a general election?

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson
Getty

There is an alternative theory which states that Johnson’s actions are in reality a deliberate bluff designed to trap his opponents. Under this theory the prime minister’s threats to push through a no-deal Brexit are are actually designed to goad MPs into blocking the UK’s exit at the end of October.

When Theresa May was prime minister, her opponents felt confident in rejecting her deal with the EU because they never really believed her threats to take the UK out of the EU without one.

By making it clear that he really will leave the EU with or without a deal, Johnson could be deliberately making it more likely that MPs will take the dramatic steps required to stop him.

Whether it’s passing a law blocking Brexit, or a vote of no confidence in his government, Johnson could be deliberately trying to trap MPs into taking the blame for stopping a no-deal Brexit, which he secretly doesn’t want to go ahead with anyway.

Not only would this plan prevent a chaotic exit from the EU for which he would otherwise be blamed, but it would also be the perfect pretense for launching a snap general election, which Johnson plans to fight and win on the platform of what insiders describe as being the prime minister for the “people vs the politicians.”

That this could be Johnson’s real plan, was made clear by campaign adverts launched by the Conservative party this week accusing opposition party leaders of “plotting to cancel the votes of [the] 17.4 million people” who voted for Brexit.

If this is Johnson’s plan then it could already be working. Both opposition Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn and Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson on Wednesday demanded meetings with the Queen to prevent the suspension of parliament.

Can a no-deal Brexit still be stopped?

Johnson addresses parliament.
Getty

While Johnson’s decision to suspend Parliament will limit the opportunities for MPs to block no deal on October 31, it does not eradicate them altogether. Next week Johnson’s opponents plan to work with the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow to begin the process of passing a law which could force Johnson to seek another extension to the Article 5o process.

Passing such a law will be difficult and Johnson would likely attempt to call a general election before the process for passing it were completed. However, even if it were successful it would merely prolong the impasse, rather than end it. Despite the outrage at Johnson’s decision today, the fact remains that MPs have had over three years to resolve Brexit — and have so far got nowhere.

Delaying Brexit would therefore merely prolong what is in reality a simple binary choice.

If MPs don’t want a no-deal Brexit then they have the choice of either passing a Brexit deal or revoking Article 50 and cancelling the whole project instead. So far they have demonstrated opposition to both of these outcomes. The longer they seek to delay that decision, the greater chance there is that Johnson takes the decision out of their hands.

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