can we speak of a "coup d'etat" after the planned suspension of Parliament?


In the United Kingdom, a country that does not have a written and fixed Constitution, everything is about interpretation.

"The Johnson shot". Thursday, August 29, one of The Independent do not go with the back of the teaspoon. The daily accuses the prime minister of "silence the representatives elected, not happy to want to forbid voters to have the last word ", after his announcement to suspend Parliament for five weeks, while the UK's exit from the European Union is scheduled for 31 October.

This maneuver, seen as "the anti-democratic coup d'etat of a cardboard dictator" by Labor MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, or as a "constitutional scandal" by the Conservative House Speaker John Bercow has led to protests across the UK. Opponents of the Prime Minister, gathered behind the slogan "Stop the blow" ("Stop the coup"), are they right to use this heavy term of meaning? In reality, it's all about interpretation.

What Boris Johnson does is legal, but …

In the United Kingdom, there is no written Constitution. As a result, it is custom and tradition that prevails when it comes to governing the functioning of this parliamentary democracy. From this point of view, Parliament's suspension for a fixed term, called "extension", is interpreted differently by pro and anti-Brexit.

On the one hand, prorogation is one of the Prime Minister's prerogatives. Boris Johnson is perfectly in his right. But for the anti-Brexit, it is obvious that suspending the Parliament for five weeks – usually, this break lasts only a few days and we must go back to the 1940s to find such a long extension – in the middle of the Brexit debate, in fact, to prevent Parliament from debating.

Gold, "our elected parliament is the centerpiece of the UK's constitutional system", Explain political scientist Alan Renwick, constitutional law specialist, on Twitter. "Holding a referendum (such as the one who, in 2016, started the Brexit process) (…) does not change anything. We must ensure that the process is democratic. In the absence of a new referendum or new elections, it is the role of Parliament (…) In suspending him, Johnson is not only undermining the democratic process, he is abusing the principle of our unwritten Constitution. " So, for the political scientist, "If norms and traditions are not respected, they cease to exist."

Parliamentarians are put aside, but …

Moreover, Boris Johnson does not completely close the door to the discussion. In deciding this suspension from 9 September, it leaves a window of at least four days during which the parliamentarians will debate the Brexit before being put on stand-by until 14 October. It's very short, but enough to hold an epic battle on the Westminster benches: "the rebel deputies are preparing for a historic parliamentary clash", prevents the Guardian.

The agenda will then largely depend on the Speaker of the House of Commons, Conservative John Bercow. Former eurosceptic late career, he has already ignored the neutrality imposed by his title to try to prevent a Brexit without agreement. He could choose to put the Brexit on the agenda as of Tuesday, invoking the so-called SO24 procedure (for "Standing Order 24"), which authorizes the holding of urgent debates.

In The Independent, John Bercow's biographer finally formulates an even more explosive hypothesis, with a possible holding of clandestine sessions: "He could play his last card as a speaker and open the door of the House of Commons despite prorogation, as an act of defiance against the government, so we would face a constitutional crisis unprecedented in the modern era. (…). "

In addition, Boris Johnson decided to open the new parliamentary session on October 14. In theory, this leaves a few days of possible debates before the effective exit of the EU on the 31st.

MPs can still dismiss Boris Johnson, but …

For the remaining 4 to 6 days before the prorogation, members could vote, for example, on a motion of no confidence against Boris Johnson and his government. It would then be a question of proposing an interim Prime Minister who, once in place, would ask for an extension of Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, which governs the exit of the United Kingdom from the EU.

Problem: It seems unlikely that a divided Parliament, even united behind the fear of leaving the EU without agreement, does not find the ideal candidate. Above all, Boris Johnson has already warned that he would refuse to resign in the event of a vote of no confidence. Instead, he plans to propose holding parliamentary elections after 31 October, after the effective date of Brexit. According to Buzzfeed, "ministers and advisers (by Boris Johnson) have delineated the legal consequences of the Prime Minister's refusal to resign if he lost the confidence of Parliament. But at Downing Street, it is believed that any legal procedure to hold elections before leaving the EU is doomed to failure. "

MEPs could, however, vote on a text demanding that Boris Johnson himself ask the EU for a new extension of Article 50, in case he is unable to negotiate a new agreement on the occasion of the Brexit European Council October 17th and 18th.

But again, we should go very quickly by urgently convene a debate in the House of Lords so that they definitively validate any proposed texts. And for good reason, since there will be prorogation, all the texts that will not have been voted in the two chambers will be put in the garbage at the end of the parliamentary session. Members should therefore resume the procedure at zero when the debate resumes on 14 October.

According to Buzzfeed, the Prime Minister's teams have studied various ways of countering the legislative process: Boris Johnson could, for example, urgently appoint pro-no deal personalities to the House of Lords to reject the text voted by the deputies. . It could also create new holidays, to prevent parliamentarians from meeting.

There are remedies against this suspension, but …

Two legal actions have already been announced against the prorogation of Parliament. The first was launched in early August by a group of more than 70 Scottish parliamentarians and will be heard in the highest civil instance in Scotland. The parliamentarians had taken the lead by seizing the court after Boris Johnson had said he would not rule out the possibility of suspending Parliament. The hearing is scheduled for September 6.

In addition, Gina Miller, a businesswoman and anti-Brexit activist, has also lodged an appeal with the English courts.

This time, it is now the turn of the Brexit supporters at any price – including without agreement – to brandish the denial of democracy, arguing that these unelected courts are hardly any more legitimate than the Prime Minister himself. even.

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