Former British prime minister Sir John Major has vowed to save Queen Elizabeth II from a constitutional crisis, if Boris Johnson moves to suspend parliament in order to deliver a no-deal Brexit.
- Sir John Major said a no-deal Brexit may trigger the suspension of Westminster
- To do that, the British PM would have to seek permission from the Queen
- Sir John said that would place her in a position “no serious politician” should consider
Mr Johnson, the current favourite to be Britain’s next prime minister, has refused to rule out suspending, or proroguing, parliament to ensure the United Kingdom leaves the European Union on October 31, with or without a deal.
Sir John told the BBC, if he was to do so, the move would leave the Queen with no other choice but to provoke a constitutional crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most stable democracies.
“If her first minister asks for that permission, it is almost inconceivable that the Queen will do anything other than grant it,” Sir John said.
“She is then in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the Queen in the middle of.”
As a constitutional monarch, the Queen’s executive authority is designed to sit above politics.
As such, she does not have the power to make or pass legislation, but all legislation must be approved by her.
The same process applies in Australia under the auspices of the Governor-General who represents the Queen.
Last parliamentary suspension during English Civil War
Sir John accused Mr Johnson of hypocrisy for backing Brexit to secure more power for Britain’s parliament, only to propose to sideline MPs when it suited him.
In an era when representative government is despised and democratic accountability has resulted in the creation of undemocratic and unaccountable elites, we should not be surprised if monarchy becomes ever more popular, writes Philip Blond.
He said parliament had not been suspended since King Charles I did so during the English Civil War. Charles was eventually executed, in 1649.
“The idea of proroguing parliament is utterly and totally unacceptable from any British parliamentarian or democrat,” Sir John said.
“If that were to happen, there would be a queue of people who would seek judicial review. I for one would be prepared to go and seek judicial review.”
The former prime minister, who is backing Mr Johnson’s prime ministerial rival Jeremy Hunt, said he was speaking in a personal capacity.
Mr Johnson responded by saying it would be “very odd” to give the judiciary a say over Brexit.
“I think everybody is fed up with delay and I think the idea of now consecrating this decision to the judiciary is really very, very odd indeed,” he said.
Johnson fails to rule out suspending parliament over Brexit
The question of suspending parliament was raised during a televised debate between Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt, the Foreign Secretary, on Tuesday evening.
While Mr Hunt categorically ruled it out, Mr Johnson said he would “not take anything off the table”.
Votes in Parliament have indicated a majority of MPs are against a no-deal Brexit because ofconcerns it would cripple supply chains and damage trade.
The pound was trading near its lowest level for more than two years on Wednesday (local time), even with better-than-expected readings on the economy, as fears about a no-deal Brexit grew stronger.
On Tuesday, MPs narrowly approved a measure that could make it harder for the next prime minister to suspend parliament.
House Speaker John Bercow has said it was “blindingly obvious” that the next prime minister would not be able to sideline parliament, adding:
“Parliament will not be evacuated from the centre stage of the decision-making process on this important matter.”
Sir John said there was a risk Britain would not be ready to leave the bloc in October, and Mr Johnson lacked leadership qualities.
He followed other party heavyweights in questioning whether the former London mayor was fit for the highest office.
“National leaders look first at the interests of the country — not first at the interests of themselves,” he said.
Between 1990–1997, the Major administration was plagued by Conservative Party disputes over Europe, which saw Britain crash ignominiously out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, the predecessor to the single currency, in 1992.