Produced by James Sandy. Edited by Richard Topping
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Boris Johnson has taken the remarkable step of announcing plans to suspend parliament for five weeks in order to limit the time that opponents of his Brexit strategy have to frustrate him. The announcement has provoked an extraordinary reaction from Boris Johnson's opponents. The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has called it a constitutional outrage. Many of the opponents of Brexit have also done the same thing. They see this as a deliberate strategy to run down the clock and prevent parliament from asserting its will in blocking a no-deal Brexit.
Why is he doing this now? There are a couple of reasons. The first is that he senses weakness among his opponents. It's clear that there isn't a majority not only for bringing him down, but also for putting in place a caretaker government, which would ask for a Brexit extension and seek an election. That's the only surefire way to stop this government. He also thinks that Remain is divided in their other strategies. They're looking for a legislative approach to outlaw the idea of a no-deal Brexit, and Boris Johnson still thinks he can work around that.
He also thinks that perhaps a people versus parliament election, where he proclaims himself as upholding the will of the people and goes in a dash to the polls, could work to his advantage. Finally, he also wants to show the European Union that there is no parliamentary rescue squad coming to stop him doing what he intends. All things considered, he is raising the stakes enormously and saying to people, if you want to stop me you're going to have to destroy my government and you're going to have to do it quickly.
What this means is that there will be absolutely ferocious fighting when parliament returns next week. MPs are going to have to work flat out to devise a strategy to frustrate this government or face up to the unpalatable reality for some of them that they have to bring Boris Johnson down and put somebody else, probably Jeremy Corbyn, in place for at least a very brief period. His opponents are trying to work out their strategy now. They still think the legislative approach is the right one, but they've now got far fewer days in which to act, unless they can change the rules and get more time in parliament. It's clear they have the speaker onside, but they've got to coalesce around a strategy that works.
What Boris Johnson is doing is legal, but it carries very severe dangers. The principle of suspending parliament so that you cannot be frustrated by a majority of MPs may sound like a good idea when you're in government. It's not something you'd find very attractive if you were in opposition and it was being done to you. And let's not forget, this is an unelected leader of a minority government.
The bottom line, however, is this: Remainers and opponents of no-deal have often talked about being prepared to do whatever it takes to stop a no-deal Brexit. What Boris Johnson is showing by this gambit is that he also is prepared to do whatever it takes to get his policy through, and he is daring his opponents to live up to their own rhetoric to stop him.