LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will limit parliament’s opportunity to derail his Brexit plans by announcing his new legislative agenda on Oct. 14 – his boldest move yet in the push to take the country out of the European Union on Oct. 31.
A government source said Johnson, who has vowed to take Britain out of the EU without a divorce deal if necessary, plans to set an Oct. 14 date for the Queen’s Speech – the formal state opening of a new session of parliament.
That would effectively shut parliament from mid-September for around a month and reduces the parliamentary time in which lawmakers could try to block a no-deal Brexit.
While suspending parliament ahead of a Queen’s Speech is the historical norm in Britain, the decision to limit parliamentary scrutiny weeks before the country’s most contentious policy decision in decades prompted an immediate outcry.
Sterling fell sharply, losing around a cent against the U.S. dollar and the euro, as investors took the news as a sign that a no-deal Brexit, and the prospect of a hit to Britain’s economy, was more likely.
“This action is an utterly scandalous affront to our democracy,” Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, said on Twitter. “We cannot let this happen.”
On Tuesday, lawmakers opposed to a no-deal Brexit met to discuss ways they could use parliamentary procedure to force Johnson to seek a delay to Brexit.
According to the BBC, a meeting about the government’s move to limit parliamentary time was due to take place at Queen Elizabeth’s Scottish summer residence in Balmoral on Wednesday.
Buckingham Palace declined to comment.
The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said senior ministers would hold a conference call on Wednesday.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister of Scotland, said Wednesday would go down as a “dark one indeed for UK democracy” unless politicians join forces next week to stop the prime minister.
Parliament returns from its summer break on Sept. 3 and had been expected to sit for two weeks before breaking up again to allow political parties to hold their annual conferences. Typically it begins sitting again in early October.
The source said Johnson would set an Oct. 14 date for the Queen’s Speech – the formal state opening of a new session of parliament at which Queen Elizabeth reads a speech prepared by the government, setting out a legislative agenda for the coming year.
A Queen’s Speech on Oct. 14 would delay parliament’s return, and leave lawmakers with just over two weeks until Britain is due to leave the EU on Oct. 31.