Jumat, 30 Agustus 2019

Former British leader joins bid to derail shuttering of Parliament amid Brexit crisis - The Washington Post

Simon Dawson Reuters Anti-Brexit protesters shout slogans as they demonstrate Thursday in Westminster in London.

LONDON — Former British Prime Minister John Major said Friday he would try to join a legal bid to prevent a suspension of Britain’s parliament just weeks before Britain is due to crash out of the European Union.

The former Conservative leader announced he would take on his successor, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced the controversial decision to shutter Parliament for over a month in the middle of one of Britain’s biggest political crises in generations. 

It was an extraordinary intervention by a former leader of Johnson’s Conservative party, akin to a former Republican president mounting a high-profile legal assault against the decisions of a sitting one. Johnson’s suspending Parliament has triggered a number of challenges by those who claim the action is unlawful and unconstitutional.

Major said in a statement that he intended to ask the High Court in London if he could join a legal battle already initiated by the business executive Gina Miller, who has had anti-Brexit triumphs in courts in the past.

Johnson shocked the country Wednesday when he announced a five-week suspension of Parliament, which dramatically cuts down the time those opposed to a no-deal Brexit have to try to avert leaving the E.U. without an exit plan.

If Britain leaves the European Union with no transitional deal to cushion its path, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other institutions have predicted economic chaos.

Johnson has repeatedly said that Britain will leave the E.U. at the end of October “do or die.”

The slim chances of Johnson’s opponents prevailing via the legal system were spotlighted by a quick defeat on Friday, when a Scottish court rejected one such attempt to halt the suspension. The case was brought by a group of 75 lawmakers, who are expected to appeal the decision.

In Northern Ireland, a court in Belfast will hear a case later Friday that will argue that exiting the E.U. without an exit plan breaches the Good Friday Agreement, the 1998 accord that helped to advance peace in Northern Ireland after decades of sectarian violence.

“Like hijackers of a plane, Boris Johnson’s ministers and acolytes are trying to keep everyone calm by giving as much as possible the impression of normality,” Miller, the business executive, wrote in the Guardian. “This is the way of people seizing power by force, but let’s be clear: there is nothing that is normal about what they are doing.”

Opposition lawmakers led by Jeremy Corbyn, meanwhile, were preparing a blitz strategy to derail a no-deal Brexit during the limited days they will have in Parliament, which reopens Tuesday after a summer recess and shuts down again by Sept. 12.

The suspension has sparked a furious backlash, with nationwide protests expected Saturday in cities including London, Glasgow, Liverpool and Leeds. A second demonstration is planned for Tuesday as lawmakers return to Parliament. A petition calling for the suspension to be canceled has rocketed past 1.5 million signatures.

Senior E.U. policymakers fretted Friday both that Johnson’s tactics were undemocratic and that they were increasing the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit.

“Westminster is the mother of all parliaments, and now there is a situation where the parliament risks being sidelined,” Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters in Helsinki. “This a way to proceed that is not very compatible with being a democracy.”

He warned of “a lot of misery” if Britain departed without a deal.

Queen Elizabeth II approved Johnson’s request to temporarily shutter the legislature. Her response was expected — the queen is an apolitical figure who acts on the advice of her prime minister. 

But her role in the maneuver made Major’s intervention even more unusual, since it amounted to a challenge of her actions as well.

Johnson’s government insists that what they are doing is business as usual. Johnson is a new prime minister, and it is normal that he would want to lay out a new legislative agenda, requiring the suspension — or proroguing — of Parliament. They also point out that there is usually a break in September when the political parties have their party conferences.

But legal campaigners say the suspension is unusually long and is thwarting lawmakers’ attempts to debate and pass legislation at a pivotal time in the nation’s history. The five-week break is the longest since 1945.

Birnbaum reported from Brussels. Quentin Ariès in Brussels contributed to this report.



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2019-08-30 10:05:14Z

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