Watch CBS News

Prime Minister Boris Johnson suspends UK Parliament after another Brexit defeat

Brexit turmoil: Parliament vs. Boris Johnson
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson threatens new election after losing Brexit vote 08:24

The simmering showdown between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Britain's Parliament over Brexit came to a head as lawmakers delivered three defeats to the government's plans for leaving the European Union, before being sent home early Tuesday for a contentious five-week suspension of the legislature.

In a session that ran well past midnight, Parliament enacted a law to block a "no-deal" Brexit next month, ordered the government to release private communications about its Brexit plans and rejected Johnson's call for a snap election to break the political deadlock.

Parliament was then suspended — or prorogued — at the government's request until October 14, a drastic move that gives Johnson a respite from rebellious lawmakers as he plots his next move.

British lawmakers earlier rejected Johnson's request for an election before the country's scheduled departure from the EU. A total of 293 of the 650 House of Commons members backed the proposal — well short of the two-thirds majority needed. Opposition lawmakers voted against the measure or abstained.

Johnson wanted a snap election October 15, just over two weeks before the scheduled October 31 date for Brexit. But opposition parties say they won't support an election until Britain has secured a delay to the Brexit date, to ensure the country does not crash out of the bloc without a deal.

Parliament has ordered the government to seek an extension if there is no deal by late October, but Johnson is vowing not to seek a delay.

Opponents accuse him of trying to avoid democratic scrutiny. What is usually a solemn, formal prorogation ceremony erupted into raucous scenes as opposition lawmakers in the House of Commons chamber shouted "Shame on you" and held up signs reading "Silenced."

Commons Speaker John Bercow expressed his displeasure at Parliament's suspension, saying "this is not a standard or normal prorogation." 

"It's one of the longest for decades and it represents an act of executive fiat," he said.

Johnson said the country's delayed exit must happen at the end of October, with or without a divorce agreement. But many lawmakers fear a no-deal Brexit would be economically devastating and are determined to stop him.

"I will not ask for another delay," Johnson said. But he has few easy ways out of it. His options — all of them extreme — include disobeying the law, which could land him in court or even prison and resigning so that someone else would have to ask for a delay.

The House of Commons also demanded the British government to hand over communication among officials about its decision to suspend Parliament and its no-deal Brexit plan. Lawmakers passed a motion calling on the U.K. to release, by Wednesday, "formal or informal" emails and text messages between aides and officials relating to the suspension, as well as to the impact of leaving the EU without a deal. Under parliamentary rules, the government is obliged to release the documents.

In a statement, the government said it would "consider the implications of this vote and respond in due course."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris seen Mon., Sept. 9, 2019, in Dublin, Ireland. Getty

Johnson acknowledged Monday that a no-deal Brexit "would be a failure of statecraft" for which he would be partially to blame.

On a visit to Dublin, Johnson said he would "overwhelmingly prefer to find an agreement" and believed a deal could be struck by October 18, when leaders of all 28 EU countries hold a summit in Brussels.

Also on Monday, Bercow announced his resignation. In a tearful speech, the House Commons Speaker, who served in that position for 10 years, said he would step down by October 31 at the latest. In his resignation speech, he spoke fondly of his time in the role while giving a stark warning to his fellow MPs:

"We degrade this Parliament at our peril," he told the House of Commons.

Haley Ott contributed to this report.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.