Former prime minister John Major yesterday vowed to go to court to block his party colleague Boris Johnson from suspending parliament and dragging the Queen into a constitutional crisis to deliver a no-deal Brexit.
Johnson, the favourite to win a Conservative leadership election and so become the next prime minister, has refused to rule out suspending, or proroguing, parliament to ensure Britain leaves the European Union on October 31 — with or without a deal.
That could provoke a constitutional crisis in one of the world’s oldest and most stable democracies because parliament is opposed to a disorderly exit, lacking a transition deal to ease the economic dislocation of leaving the bloc.
While it is essentially up to the prime minister to make the decision, Major, an opponent of Brexit who has not shied away for criticising his party on the issue, said it would require the Queen’s blessing.
“In order to close down parliament, the prime minister would have to go to the Queen and ask for her permission to prorogue,” he told BBC Radio. “If her first minister asks for that permission, it is almost inconceivable that the Queen will do anything other than grant it.
“She is then in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the Queen in the middle of. 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.”
Major accused Johnson of hypocrisy for backing Brexit to secure more power for parliament, only to propose to sideline lawmakers when it suited him.
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,” Major said.
A spokesman for Johnson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Major is backing Johnson’s rival Hunt for the leadership but said he was speaking in a personal capacity.
The question of suspending parliament was raised during a televised debate between Johnson and Hunt, the foreign minister, on Tuesday evening.
While Hunt categorically ruled it out, Johnson said he would “not take anything off the table”.
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