Boris Johnson laid down the gauntlet to Jeremy Corbyn and the ‘Remain Alliance’ today as he opted for the nuclear option of suspending Parliament in a bid to stop MPs blocking the UK leaving the EU on October 31.
The Prime Minister caught his political opponents off-guard and stunned Westminster this morning as he said he will send MPs home for most of September and the start of October.
Mr Johnson will then hold a Queen’s Speech on October 14 setting out his government’s legislative agenda just two weeks before the UK is due to split from Brussels.
The move will dramatically reduce the amount of time available to Europhile MPs who want to pass a new law which would force Mr Johnson to ask the EU to delay Brexit if the UK is on course for a No Deal split on Halloween.
The decision to prorogue Parliament has massively upped the stakes in the battle over Brexit and represents a major gamble for Mr Johnson who is effectively daring his opponents to try to oust him next week and bring about a snap general election.
Senior Remain-backing MPs yesterday agreed to prioritise the passage of anti-No Deal legislation over a potential vote of no confidence as they try to prevent a bad break from Brussels.
But Mr Johnson’s decision to significantly reduce the amount of time available for such a law to be passed means MPs may now be forced to swing in behind a vote to topple the PM when they return from their summer break next week.
However, Downing Street is bullish about the chances of defeating a vote of no confidence, with officials deeply sceptical about Mr Corbyn’s ability to persuade a majority of MPs to back the move.
Meanwhile, it is thought Mr Johnson could simply choose to ignore a successful vote of no confidence.
Convention dictates that a defeated PM should resign but sources said today that Mr Johnson could refuse to quit, dissolve Parliament and then call an election himself.
His decision to prorogue Parliament for five weeks has sparked a political firestorm as opposition MPs and Tory rebels claimed Mr Johnson was behaving like a ‘tin pot dictator’.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, accused the PM of launching a ‘smash and grab against our democracy’ and he has written to the Queen to express his concern and to demand a meeting with the monarch.
However, the Prime Minister defended his decision as he said MPs would still have ‘ample time’ to debate Brexit in the run up to the existing October 31 deadline.
Mr Johnson spoke to the Queen this morning to secure her permission to prorogue Parliament at some point during the week beginning September 9, with the order formally approved this afternoon.