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As Brexit Deadline Nears, Johnson Requests Parliament Be Suspended


We're following news in Britain this morning. The U.K. prime minister, Boris Johnson, has asked the queen to suspend Parliament as the clock is ticking down on Brexit. Members of the opposition Labour Party are calling this a coup, an anti-democratic move to bypass them and crash the country out of the European Union at the end of October. For more on this, we're going to turn to Georgina Wright. She's a senior researcher who focuses on Brexit at the Institute for Government in London.

Good morning.

GEORGINA WRIGHT: Good morning.

GREENE: What does suspending Parliament actually mean?

WRIGHT: So, actually, suspending Parliament, or what we call prorogation, isn't new. This is actually something that happens very frequently. So what a government will do is that they will suspend Parliament and then they'll introduce a queen's speech, and that kind of outlines all the government's plans on everything from transport, where they're going to commit money. But what is different here is obviously the Brexit context and the fact the government wants to delay that time between suspending Parliament and introducing this speech.

Now, Brexit context is important. We know that the 31 of October is that crucial deadline. We know that the U.K. rejects the deal that it's reached with the EU. But if the EU and the U.K. can't reach a new deal, then there is a very high possibility that U.K. will leave with no deal. And actually by suspending Parliament and delaying that speech, you're reducing the time to MPs who are in the Parliament their ability to kind of influence this agenda and try and stop no deal from happening.

GREENE: OK. So this could be seen as Boris Johnson trying to control the process here and I guess in the eyes of the Labour Party lock out lawmakers from Parliament from actually having a saying and have any time to try and work on any new deal.

WRIGHT: That's exactly it. So, obviously, a lot of MPs are really worried. They think we've already got no time to talk about this issue. We don't know how talks with the EU are going to go. We don't know if you're going to reach a new deal with them. And if you don't reach a new deal, then we're heading for no deal. So we need to act. We need to prevent that from happening. But, of course, if you limit that time available for MPs to actually act, then some have seen that as a coup. But, actually, suspending Parliament, introducing a new government speech, that is not unusual. That's quite common for governments.

GREENE: Is this a sign that Boris Johnson wants Britain to crash out of the EU?

WRIGHT: Well, it's really interesting that you ask that because many watchers in EU capitals think quite the opposite. They think actually this shows that the prime minister is serious about reaching a deal. If you kind of minimize time for debate in London, you can focus on talks with the EU in September.

GREENE: It forces them into a quicker timeline to make something happen.

WRIGHT: Exactly. And then you bring back that deal from Brussels if one is reached and then you force minds here in London and the government could say, well, look, this is the - these are the options on the table. You either back our deal or we're heading for no deal. So some in the EU think that actually this is a very smart move.

GREENE: Yeah. How are - how is the EU responding to this? I mean, they've said that - or many have said that they're just not open to more negotiations, right?

WRIGHT: Yeah. So they obviously won't comment on prorogation because that's very much a domestic issue in the U.K. But certainly you have heard from last week the prime minister went to Berlin. He went to Paris. And he's also spoken to EU leaders in Brussels. And he said, look, I want a deal. I'm serious about it, but we need to have further talks. And the EU said, OK, we are open to further talks, but what are your proposals to actually change that deal? Because this is the, you know, constant conundrum with Brexit is how can you reach a deal that the EU will accept that will also make it through here in the U.K. Parliament? And that is forever the big problem and the challenge.

GREENE: I think it's safe to say Brexit has been a constant conundrum in the U.K. for some time now. We'll see what this move means.

WRIGHT: It's going to be interesting.

GREENE: Yeah. All right.

Georgina Wright with the Institute for Government in London, thanks so much. We really appreciate it.

WRIGHT: Thank you very much.

GREENE: And we do just want to bring you the latest now. This is just in from London. The queen, as expected, has approved Prime Minister Boris Johnson's request to suspend British Parliament. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.