Queen Elizabeth Has Been Used As a Political Tool Over Parliament Suspension, Says Ex-U.K Government Legal Adviser

Recriminations over the imminent suspension of the U.K's. parliament have historians and legal experts poring over the significance of the move known as prorogation.

By Thursday afternoon, already one million people had signed a petition opposing the move by Prime Minister Boris Johnson to suspend parliament for five weeks until October 14. That's the date of the Queen's Speech, which outlines the government's agenda.

Members of parliament (MPs) opposing the move say it will cut short the time needed to debate or pass laws that could stop the U.K from leaving the European Union by the deadline of October 31 without a deal with Brussels, known as a "no-deal" Brexit.

The suspension was officially approved by the Queen on Wednesday at her Balmoral Castle residence in Scotland. As a constitutional monarch, she would not have been able to turn down her prime minister's request.

The Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament in Westminster, London. The parliament will be suspended ahead of a Brexit deadline on October 31, sparking outrage that democracy is being denied to the country's MPs. Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

One of the arguments that had been made against prorogation was that the Queen was above politics.

But former British government lawyer Carl Gardner, who has advised the U.K attorney-general, said the suspension showed how the crisis over Brexit had shifted from a political to a constitutional one.

He told Newsweek: "The government is casting off normal British constitutional behavior and trying to instrumentalize the Queen to suit its party politics.

"We are entering a phase where the central government is simply trying to assert its naked power without restraint. No decent constitutional values can accept that the government just close down parliament when it's convenient for them."

On Thursday, prominent anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller filed an urgent application for a legal challenge to stop the plan.

"Whilst prorogation is an acceptable UK constitutional practice, no prime minister in modern history has attempted to use it in such a brazen manner," Miller said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in a separate challenge, a Scottish court is considering whether the suspension is legal and constitutional, the BBC reported.

Unlike the U.S., the U.K. has no written codified constitution. Instead, it has Acts of Parliament, court judgments and conventions.

Gavin Phillipson, professor of constitutional law at Bristol University, said this week's developments highlighted the quirks of British parliamentary democracy.

Queen Elizabeth
Queen Elizabeth II gave the approval for the proroguing of parliament next month. Stuart C. Wilson/Getty

"This shows the contrast between the British parliament and the U.S Congress, because nothing like this could happen to the U.S. Congress.

"President [Donald] Trump can't suspend or interfere with the normal sittings of Congress. This reveals the old royal roots of the British constitution, which still come to the surface."

"Those kind of royal powers over parliament demonstrate the way in which parliament is substantially weaker than the U.S. Congress, which stands completely independent from the executive because of the American constitution's conception of the separation of powers," Phillipson told Newsweek.

There have been accusations of hyperbole, with some referencing Charles I who prorogued Parliament in 1628 ahead of his deposition and eventual execution. At its heart is the conflict between parliamentary democracy and the direct democracy of a referendum.

British historian Robert Tombs told the BBC: "This is an entirely new situation. We are not talking about an illegal act. we are talking about a government using constitutional powers in a way many people find outrageous.

"We are not used to constitutional crises, I guess this is the first big one we have had in the age of democracy."

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