Johnson rejects calls to recall parliament, defends suspension
September 12 2019 05:57 PM
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday rejected lawmakers' calls to recall parliament, insisting that its suspension was not designed to facilitate his Brexit plan.

Johnson said he remained hopeful of reaching agreement with Brussels but plans to withdraw Britain from the European Union on October 31, with or without an exit deal.

But EU officials said Johnson's government had made no new proposals that could prompt the reopening of talks, casting doubt on his claim to have made progress towards persuading Brussels to abandon the so-called backstop arrangement to guarantee an open Irish border after Brexit.

‘The UK has not proposed any alternatives, anything that is legally credible and workable,’ the head of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, said following a meeting with the leaders of the parliament's political groups and chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier.

The EU is prepared to delay Brexit again if Britain gives a good reason, Sassoli said - such as avoiding a no-deal Brexit, holding an election or extending the negotiating period.

‘Unfortunately, the signals we are getting aren't indicating that there is any initiative that could reopen the negotiations,’ he said.

Opposition leaders have accused Johnson of suspending, or proroguing, parliament to avoid scrutiny of his Brexit plans and run down the clock.

They urged him to recall parliament after Scotland's highest court ruled on Wednesday that the suspension was unlawful.

The government released an assessment late Wednesday that suggested a no-deal Brexit could have a more serious impact than it had previously admitted.

It claimed the assessment reflects its worst-case scenario, despite the heading ‘base scenario’ appearing on a near-identical version leaked to The Times earlier.

‘Boris Johnson must now admit that he has been dishonest with the British people about the consequence of a no deal Brexit,’ tweeted Keir Starmer, the opposition Labour party's Brexit spokesman.

‘It is also now more important than ever that parliament is recalled and has the opportunity to scrutinise these documents and take all steps necessary to stop no deal,’ Starmer said.

Johnson said the legal issues must be decided by Britain's Supreme Court in an appeal hearing next week, denying that he gave false reasons for suspending parliament.

‘Absolutely not,’ he told the BBC when asked if he had misled lawmakers and Queen Elizabeth II, who approved the suspension.

‘The High Court in England plainly agrees with us, but the Supreme Court will have to decide,’ Johnson said, referring to a separate case in which the English court ruled in favour of the government.

He said he suspended parliament to allow him to present his programme for improvements to health services, policing and other ‘people's priorities’ to a new session.

In another legal challenge over the potential impact of Brexit in Northern Ireland, a court ruled in favour of Johnson on Thursday.

The court dismissed a request for a judicial review of issues including the potential harm that Brexit could cause to the territory's fragile peace process.

Judge Bernard McCloskey said he found the issues ‘inherently and unmistakeably political.’

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