It’s not just Boris bending the constitution

Remainer MPs want to use the queen, the courts and caretaker governments to block Brexit.

Luke Gittos

Topics Brexit Politics UK

A poll published this week in the Telegraph suggested that a majority of the public would support prime minister Boris Johnson proroguing parliament in order to deliver Brexit on 31 October. Proroguing parliament, which was mooted by Johnson earlier this year during the Tory leadership race, would involve suspending MPs using constitutional powers under the Royal Prerogative. These powers are held by the queen but, in practice, are exercised by ministers on her behalf. Shutting down parliament would allow the UK to leave the European Union by default on 31 October. Unless MPs approve a deal, a further extension is granted to the Article 50 timeframe, or the UK revokes its Article 50 notification, there will be a No Deal Brexit.

The sanguine attitude of the public to Johnson’s plan to bypass parliament is in stark contrast to the reaction of the Remainers. John Bercow, speaker of the House of Commons, said he would fight the suspension of parliament ‘with every breath’. He has said previously that the prospect of preventing parliament from intervening on Brexit would be ‘unimaginable’. Then we have Gina Miller, the campaigner who brought the legal case to prevent Theresa May from triggering Article 50 without a vote in parliament. She has branded Boris a ‘dictator’ in response to his plan to suspend parliament.

It would certainly be wrong for the prime minister to dissolve parliament using the undemocratic Royal Prerogative. Our constitution is unwritten. It relies on MPs and the government respecting democratic tradition; they should not manipulate the rules to get their own way.

But the Remainers calling Boris a ‘dictator’ ignore the ways in which their own side has played constitutional games, too. Ever since the Brexit vote, Remainers have used the institutions of parliament, with their arcane rules and procedures, to stall Brexit – and they have more plans up their sleeves. Bercow, in particular, is no stranger to constitutional wrangling. He has used his powers as speaker to bolster Remainer MPs on numerous occasions. In January, he allowed MPs to vote on an amendment tabled by arch Remainer Dominic Grieve. In allowing the vote, he went against the advice of his expert clerks, who argued it was in breach of parliamentary rules.

Many of the Remainers’ schemes envisage the intervention of our unelected monarch. In November 2018, MPs passed a ‘humble address’ motion. This forced the government to disclose legal advice it had received from the attorney general on Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement. Some Remainer MPs are seriously suggesting that a humble-address motion could be used to get the queen to attend an EU summit and request an extension to the Article 50 period. In this event, the queen herself would attend an international summit instead of the prime minister, and she would negotiate on the UK’s behalf. Of course, this is incredibly unlikely to happen. But it shows the desperate and undemocratic lengths Remainer MPs are willing to go to in order to block Brexit.

A cross-party group of MPs is also planning an amendment that would allow them further sitting time to stop a No Deal Brexit. It would amend a motion which requires MPs to break for party conferences in mid-September. The hope is that the extra time would allow them to pass a bill forcing the government to seek an extension to Article 50.

Then there is the suggestion that MPs could table a vote of no confidence to replace Johnson’s government. Jeremy Corbyn has promised to table a no-confidence motion as soon as parliament returns from recess in early September. If such a motion is passed, the house must express its confidence in either the same government or an alternative government within 14 days, or a General Election has to be held. It was the possibility that an alternative government may command the confidence of the house that lead to Caroline Lucas’s bizarre suggestion of installing a government of national unity constituted solely of women. Liberal Democrat MP Ed Davey has suggested a different government of national unity, led by either Yvette Cooper or Hilary Benn. Corbyn’s plan is to install himself as a caretaker prime minister.

Parliamentarians have even brought litigation to prevent Johnson’s plan. A legal case, the weapon of choice for well-heeled Remainers, has been brought in the Scottish Court of Session (English courts don’t sit in August). It has been backed by 70 MPs, each of whom is trying to use the courts to prevent a democratically elected government from carrying out the largest mandate ever delivered in British political history.

Johnson’s plan to prorogue parliament is wrong. But it is absurd for Remainers to call the prime minister a dictator when we consider the array of anti-democratic constitutional tricks that are being pulled to stop Brexit. MPs and the government need to find a way of carrying out the mandate bestowed by the 2016 vote. The UK constitution should be a vehicle for enacting the will of the people, not shutting it down.

Luke Gittos is a spiked columnist. His new book, Human Rights – Illusory Freedom: Why We Should Repeal the Human Rights Act, is published by Zero Books. Order it here.

Picture by: Getty.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Ian Fantom

20th August 2019 at 4:24 pm

“These powers are held by the queen but, in practice, are exercised by ministers on her behalf. ” – This is an astounding revelation. I’d be grateful if you had give a source for this. Thanks.

michael savell

19th August 2019 at 6:36 pm

A lot of people are complaining that there may be shortages etc.If we follow independent
finance experts it can be shown that most are expecting a recession and shortages but not just in the UK.They appear to be more worried about what may happen in Germany re recession,some are even talking hyperinflation .With a Germany almost assuredly in control of the EU and a new “european” army almost certain I wouldn’t like to be one of the vassal states which we almost certainly will be if we are forced to stay in the Eu due to “remainers”trickery.We have had all the time in the world to take our place in the world independently and to build up reserves but we haven’t really made the effort,just the same as we didn’t at the start of ww2.All we appear to do is to mollify bankers by setting in place all the conditions which prevent us being independent.

Jerry Owen

16th August 2019 at 9:11 am

What would the ‘Spiked’ editorial be on how to push for Brexit if the remainers are prepared to subvert the democratic process to the point where the democratic process known as parliamentary democracy cannot through the democratic process thwart the anti democrats ?
We have arrived at the surreal point whereby ‘Conservatives’ are prepared to install a terrorist supporting class warrior Marxist as Prime Minister.
We all know that removing such a person with the likes of McDonnell behind him is very unlikely. The ranks of momentum will not relinquish any kind of power democratically such is the nature of radical socialism.
How on earth have ‘remainiacs’ arrived at this twisted tactic ?
It is truly staggering.

Jerry Owen

16th August 2019 at 8:28 am

On the one hand the ‘remoaners’ tell us that we didn’t know what we were voting for, then on the other hand they tell us that we didn’t vote for ‘no deal’.
Is there no end to their rank hypocrisy ?

John Millson

16th August 2019 at 9:43 am

Only the most swivel-eyed of swivel-eyed Euro-sceptics (and the insane), would have thought: ”Yes, Cameron says leaving the EU means leaving the Customs Union and the Single Market overnight… that could mean a chaotic exit, with shortages, unemployment etc, but hey, so what, that’s a price worth paying”, before placing their ‘X’. Most leave voters would have expected some disruption, yes, but not national crisis. They would have expected the governing party to act in the national interest literally, to protect everyone, man woman and child, not just the now hallowed ‘17.4 million’.
The ‘remainiacs’ are to blame, to an extent, but the poisonous disloyalty of those now in power are directly to blame. And they call themselves ‘patriots’…?

Jerry Owen

17th August 2019 at 9:54 am

John Millson
This is not a dissimilar situation to the USA whereby the ‘democrats’ are hoping for the economy to crash so they can discredit Trump.
Here they are hoping to talk in a recession to discredit ‘Brexit’.
Bloody traitors !

Charles Stuart

16th August 2019 at 3:56 am

I really hope that Boris does proprogue Parliament, as this is clearly what the people want. That would thus be true democ racy in action.
What gets me about modern politics in most western countries is the fact that none of the polliticians seem to have any balls. They flap about and fight dirty in the background. But when it comes to it, they are rarely able to just come out and say that something will be done and then do it.

Bear Mac Mathun

15th August 2019 at 11:08 pm

Sounds like a good reason to be well rid of these dreadful people – the Windsor family that is, not our fellow, albeit disagreeable, citizens.

Jerry Owen

15th August 2019 at 10:57 pm

Quite frankly I’m past niceities, I just want it done anyway possible , if that means playing rough and the remoaners getting even more unhinged .. I will be absolutely delighted with that.

Bob Dobbs

15th August 2019 at 10:27 pm

Wow what a balanced factual and articulate article! Firstly the poll in question showed 44% of respondents supported proroguing parliament which as far as I know isn’t a majority.
Secondly the mantra of the leavers throughout the Brexit was “take back control”, our parliament should be sovereign once more! Leaving aside the fact that our parliament always was sovereign we just decided to allow the EU to preside over those parts of our laws necessary to create a fair and open single market, this article now seems to be moaning about the fact that the parliament we wanted to give power back to, is exercising that very power in order to try and prevent an entirely unelected government from enacting Brexit in a way that was specifically ruled out again and again during the campaign. I think you might want to think that one through. Do you seriously want to allow a single politician who has never been elected prime minister by the British people to be able to suspend parliament & all the checks and balances on his power it provides in order to force the country to his will… You know that’s a dictatorship right? You want to set that precedent? For what? Is it worth it? What about the next time and then the next time after that? Be careful what you wish for!

Jerry Owen

15th August 2019 at 10:53 pm

Bob Dobbs
You’re new here and it shows , your points have been rubished a thousand times before here.
The poll I saw was 52 percent.
It matters not 17.4 million voted leave… You lost get over it .

Jim Lawrie

16th August 2019 at 1:34 am

We do not elect Prime Ministers. We elect MP’s.

Boris Johnson on Brexit has mandate of 52% of the country.

John Millson

16th August 2019 at 8:12 am

Legally, constutionally correct. Politically, unsustainable – everyone knows that. (There must be many who voted to leave, who are opposed to Johnson.)

John Millson

16th August 2019 at 8:05 am

Bob, we are in the realm of insanity here. Trusim: the opened Brexit Pandora’s Box means double-think, hyprocrisy and stupidity everywhere.
If Johnson was to call an election campaiging for ‘no-deal’ he would still win.
We can only hope that the predictions of deep recession/depression are wrong. They are playing a massively risky game though. (For anti-imperialists the one ‘good’ thing about Brexit could be be that England gets understand humility finally. Ireland will unify; Scotland will break away and Wales will try.)
Having experienced Thatcherism with all its talk of ‘structural unemployment’ etc., a post-Brexit scene with people like Priti Patel and Dominic Raab in power makes that era seem gentle and kind in comparison.

Hana Jinks

15th August 2019 at 7:15 pm

Yet more left snivelling at left. This how they promote themselves.

LuLu Git. This is the second time that I’ve seen the Fey-Squad refer to proroguing as “wrong”.

Jules Hardiman

15th August 2019 at 6:55 pm

Apart from the fact that they are all self serving blighters, what happens at the next general election, or the one after if us plebs vote for the wrong thing?
Will we again be told we don’t understand and that for our own good they better impose an acceptable person on us as PM?

James Knight

15th August 2019 at 6:20 pm

They say they want to stop “no deal”. It is a lie. They want to stop Brexit and Johnson is right, they are effectively acting in concert with the EU to bury Brexit.

Incidentally, if “experts” are your bag, one legal expert claimed the UK already accidentally left the EU on 31st March 19.

Neil McCaughan

15th August 2019 at 5:42 pm

Terminology is important. The EU has never offered a deal (merely dictated surrender terms), so a *clean break* is our only option.

Equally it would be inappropriate to refer to a junta representing the losing minority of pro-remain voters as a “government of national unity” – it is quite the opposite. Most of the names mentioned, especially the odious Mrs Balls, are abhorrent to decent people. Happily we will never see Caroline “poo bucket” Lucas as our prime minister. Some things are just too ridiculous.

John Hall

15th August 2019 at 5:30 pm

You forget Luke that these Remainer’s are members in good standing of the Royal Order of Hypocrites. Their attitude: Whatever we do is for the Best because we are the Good Guys. Anyone else, especially Evil, Racist Leavers try it – WE PROTEST!

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