A PETITION opposing prime minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament for a month in the run-up to the planned Brexit date of October 31 gained more than 450,000 signatures in a matter of hours after Johnson’s announcement.
Johnson set October 14 for the formal state opening of a new session of parliament that is preceded by a suspension of the House of Commons, effectively shutting parliament from mid-September and limiting its ability to delay Brexit.
Johnson has pledged to take Britain out of the European Union by the end of October, even if this means leaving without a transition deal, something many businesses fear will create significant economic disruption.
The petition on the British parliament’s website reached 450,000 signatures shortly before 1530 GMT on Wednesday (28), easily exceeding the threshold of 100,000 which triggers a largely symbolic parliamentary debate.
A petition earlier this year calling for Brexit to be stopped gained a record 6.1 million signatures.
The pound slid on the surprise news, which opponents branded a “coup” and a “declaration of war”, although US president Donald Trump weighed into the row by praising Johnson as “great”.
The Conservative leader’s move to close parliament for a month will give pro-EU lawmakers less time than they expected to try to thwart his plans for a possible no-deal Brexit on October 31.
Queen Elizabeth II has approved the request to close what has been the longest session of parliament in nearly 400 years, and reopen it on October 14 setting out Johnson’s fresh legislative programme.
Seemingly caught on the hop, incensed anti-Brexit MPs were left scrambling for a way to stop the move.
Johnson’s announcement came after six opposition parties said on Tuesday (27) they would first seek to legislate to prevent leaving the EU without a deal when parliament returns from a summer recess next week.
Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the main opposition Labour Party, has said he wants to call a vote of no-confidence in Johnson’s government, which commands a majority of just one seat.
John Bercow, the speaker of parliament’s lower House of Commons, described the closure as a “constitutional outrage” designed to stymie debate on Brexit, with Britain currently on course to crash out without a divorce deal.
An EU summit on October 17-18 could decide whether Britain ends its four decades of membership without a withdrawal agreement that governs future trade relations and citizens rights.
Johnson said there would be “ample time” either side of the summit for MPs to debate Brexit.
And he said it was “completely untrue” that the move was designed to stop MPs blocking his Brexit strategy.
Johnson said it was to “bring forward a new, bold and ambitious domestic legislative agenda for the renewal of our country after Brexit”.
The government’s chief Brexit adviser David Frost was in Brussels for talks on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the government needs to implement the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum, in which Britons voted to leave the EU by a margin of 17.4 million to 16.1 million.