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Brexit: Boris Johnson's "constitutional contempt"

2019-08-29T10:13:38.221Z

EDITORIAL. Editorial. The British Prime Minister does not deceive anyone: what he really wants through the suspension of Parliament is to prevent members from organizing to defeat a Brexit without agreement with the Union.



Anti-Brexit protesters in front of the British parliament, in London on August 28th. HENRY NICHOLLS / REUTERS

Editorial of the "World". There are several Boris Johnson. There is the pure product of the British elite, that it is intrinsically. There is the jester, who laughed heartily when he was mayor of London. There is the liar, who did not hesitate to campaign for Brexit in 2016 on false arguments. There is the dilettante, head of diplomacy passing through Theresa May's government. There is the courteous and responsible statesman that we saw at the G7 in Biarritz.

And then there is the populist prime minister, cynical and brutal, determined to do everything, including forcing the queen to suspend British parliamentary democracy, to achieve her ends: driving the United Kingdom out of the European Union on 31 October. This exit would be "whatever the cost," he promised when taking office.

On Wednesday, August 28, Boris Johnson showed his true face: "whatever the cost" , it may mean to do without Westminster. To silence the elected representatives of the people, those members he does not control, because he technically only has a majority vote in the House of Commons, and who threatens to derail everything.

"Dictator on the small foot"

House of Commons Speaker John Bercow described the Prime Minister's approach as "constitutional contempt". Opposition cries for disguised coup d'etat. Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon called Boris Johnson "a dictator on a small foot" . Spontaneous demonstrations of indignant citizens took place in several large cities. A protest petition collected more than a million signatures in a few hours.

The procedure relied on by Boris Johnson nonetheless has all the appearance of legality: Queen Elizabeth, moreover, acquiesced without delay in her request to suspend the proceedings of Parliament for five weeks, between 9 September and mid-October.

The official justification of this approach is the will of the new head of government to prepare a legislative program "bold and ambitious", that the sovereign will expose in his traditional speech before the Parliament on October 14, which he says he can not do as long as Parliament is in session. Experts readily admit that a break would be welcome in this parliamentary session, one of the longest in British history.

But they also argue that the crisis in British politics is exceptional. And above all, here again, the artifice of Mr. Johnson does not deceive anyone: what he wants in reality through this procedure, is to prevent members to organize to defeat a Brexit without agreement with the Union.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Suspending the British Parliament, Boris Johnson aggravates the Brexit crisis

It is not only the pride of Westminster and the reputation of the United Kingdom as a bastion of representative democracy that are at stake in this new coup de brilliance by Boris Johnson. For what does the latter really aim for in this process? It seeks to exacerbate the polarization within British public opinion, that the Brexit issue has painfully divided for three years, and to play the people against Parliament. This is the hallmark of populism.

A democratically contestable legitimacy

The Prime Minister plays with fire. One of the possible scenarios in Westminster is the vote by members of a motion of no confidence when they meet next week. Johnson suggested that in this case he could refuse to resign, dissolve Parliament and hold elections only after Brexit.

Boris Johnson must not forget that his tenure as prime minister is itself based on a democratically contestable legitimacy - he was, after all, chosen for this position in July by just over 90,000 party activists. conservative very weakened. Only one way out of the chaos that paralyzes British politics since the June 2016 referendum seems realistic today: to call new elections.

Exercise is not without risks, given the confusion of traditional political forces and the extremist militancy of Nigel Farage. But it is difficult to see how British democracy can go through this crisis without a relegitimisation at the source, that of universal suffrage.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also In Brussels, negotiations on Brexit continue without illusions after the suspension of Westminster

The world

Source: lemonde

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