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Queen Elizabeth Allows Boris Johnson To Suspend Parliament, Prompting Severe Outcry
Queen Elizabeth II welcomes newly elected leader of the Conservative party, Boris Johnson during an audience where she invited him to become Prime Minister and form a new government in Buckingham Palace on July 24, 2019 in London, England.
Photo by Victoria Jones – WPA Pool/Getty Images)

In a historic move, Queen Elizabeth II found herself at the center of British politics by granting Prime Minister Boris Johnson permission to suspend Parliament. The move prompted fierce backlash in the U.K.

“At a secretive meeting in Balmoral Castle, the fairy tale royal residence in Scotland, ministers sent by Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked the queen, 93, to suspend Parliament for a month,” reports NBC News. “The world’s longest-serving living monarch had little choice but to agree to ‘prorogue’ Parliament, the formal name for the suspension. And this has triggered what many across the political spectrum say is an unprecedented constitutional crisis that threatens the values of British democracy.”

While Queen Elizabeth’s permission appears to be political in nature, her role as a constitutional monarch essentially means she cannot directly insert herself in the political process by opposing Johnson’s request.

“In a democratic system, you can’t expect the unelected head of state — whose whole legitimacy depends on her being outside of the political system — you can’t expect that person to be your guardian of democracy,” Michael Gordon, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Liverpool, told The New York Times.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed suspending Parliament until mid-October this week, claiming it will help him enact a “bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda.”

“The decision to end the current parliamentary session — the longest in close to 400 years and, in recent months, one of the least active — will enable the prime minister to put a fresh domestic program in front of [members of Parliament] for debate and scrutiny while also ensuring that there is good time before and after the European Council for Parliament to further consider Brexit issues,” 10 Downing Street said in a released statement.

Johnson’s critics, however, allege that the move seeks to stifle his opponent’s abilities to block a so-called “no-deal” Brexit before the U.K. officially leaves the European Union this fall, in accordance with the 2016 referendum.

“The normally fractious opposition swiftly united in outrage at Mr. Johnson’s maneuver on Wednesday, which brought protesters onto the streets in London and other cities across the country, while an online petition against the action drew well over a million signatures,” reports The New York Times. “The move also strained relations within Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party and prompted claims from critics that the government was trampling the conventions of the country’s unwritten Constitution, undermining its democracy.”

The move demonstrates the stark difference in governance that exists between the United States and Britain, according to Gavin Phillipson, professor of constitutional law at Bristol University.

“This shows the contrast between the British Parliament and the U.S. Congress, because nothing like this could happen to the U.S. Congress,” Phillipson told Newsweek. “President [Donald] Trump can’t suspend or interfere with the normal sittings of Congress. This reveals the old royal roots of the British constitution, which still come to the surface.”

“Those kinds of royal powers over Parliament demonstrate the way in which Parliament is substantially weaker than the U.S. Congress, which stands completely independent from the executive because of the American constitution’s conception of the separation of powers,” he concluded.

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