Former British prime minister John Major said on Wednesday he was ready to go to court to block a new leader from suspending parliament and dragging the queen into a constitutional crisis to deliver a no-deal Brexit.
Boris Johnson, the favourite to win a Conservative leadership election and so become the next prime minister, has refused to rule out suspending, or proroguing, parliament to ensure Britain leaves the European Union on Oct. 31 – with or without a deal.
While it is essentially up to the prime minister to make the decision, Major, a Conservative like Johnson, told BBC Radio:
“In order to close down parliament, the prime minister would have to go to Her Majesty the Queen and ask for her permission to prorogue. If her first minister asks for that permission, it is almost inconceivable that the queen will do anything other than grant it.
“She is then in the midst of a constitutional controversy that no serious politician should put the queen in the middle of. If that were to happen, there would be a queue of people who would seek judicial review. I for one would be prepared to go and seek judicial review.”
Major accused Johnson of hypocrisy for campaigning before the 2016 Brexit referendum for Britain’s parliament to gain more power by leaving the EU, then proposing to sideline lawmakers when it suited him.
He said parliament had not been suspended since King Charles I did so during the English Civil War. Charles was eventually executed, in 1649.
“The idea of proroguing parliament is utterly and totally unacceptable from any British parliamentarian or democrat,” Major said.
When asked about prorogation last month, Leader of the House Mel Stride, who is in charge of the government’s business in parliament, said the decision was matter for a future prime minister.
But House Speaker John Bercow said it was “blindingly obvious” that the next prime minister would not be able to sideline parliament, adding: “Parliament will not be evacuated from the centre stage of the decision-making process on this important matter.”
Major said there was a risk that Britain would not be ready to leave the EU in October, and that Johnson lacked leadership qualities.
“If you have to choose between what is in the interests of the country and the future or the short-term interests of the Conservative party, I would unhesitatingly choose the interests of the country as a whole,” he said.
Major’s own 1990-1997 premiership was plagued by disputes within his party over Europe, and an ignominious withdrawal from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, the predecessor to the single currency, in 1992.