Parliament to be suspended as Boris Johnson insists Brexit is on track

"I want to get a deal," the prime minister said as the Brexit clock ticks.
Image: Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaks to the media ahead of his meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Government Buildings
Leo Varadkar, right, Ireland's taoiseach, or prime minister, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Dublin on Monday, Sept. 9, 2019.Charles McQuillan / Getty Images

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By Patrick Smith

LONDON — Parliament will be suspended for a month starting Monday night as Prime Minister Boris Johnson employs every possible tactic to ensure that Britain leaves the European Union as planned on Oct. 31.

The prime minister's office confirmed that Parliamentary business will stop after Monday's session, meaning that lawmakers can't sit, debate or pass laws until Oct. 14. This means less time for Johnson's opponents to stop his Brexit plan.

Because a quirk in Britain's constitutional monarchy, Johnson had to ask the queen for permission to suspend the parliamentary session.

The process, known as prorogation, has been used before, but this time lawmakers accused Johnson of shutting down democracy in order to make sure Brexit isn't stopped.

On Monday morning, in his first meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, Johnson insisted he would keep his promise on leaving the E.U. on time

Johnson, at a joint news conference in Dublin, said that it was still possible the U.K. could reach a deal with the E.U. on the so-called Irish backstop, a key sticking point for Brexit supporters who worry the policy would keep the U.K. subject to European laws.

"I want to get a deal. Like you, I've looked carefully at No Deal, I've assessed its consequences both for our country and yours, and yes, of course, we could do it, the U.K. could get through," Johnson said.

"But be in no doubt: that outcome would be a failure of statecraft for which we would all be responsible."

As it stands, the U.K. will automatically fall out of the E.U., the 28-member economic and political club of European nations, at 11 p.m. on Oct. 31 without a withdrawal agreement to ensure a smooth transition. Such a "no-deal" Brexit comes with dire economic warnings from lawmakers, economists and business leaders.

Slipping in a reference to please the Greek mythology-loving Johnson, Varadkar said: "I think it's going to be a Herculean task for you [to get a deal]. But we do want to be a friend, your ally, your Athena in doing so.

"We must protect the peace and also the burgeoning all-Ireland economy. And that's why for us the backstop continues to be a critical component to the withdrawal agreement unless or until alternatives are found."

The backstop is an insurance policy that guarantees there would be no hard border between the Irish Republic, an E.U. member, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the U.K.

A soft border is seen as crucial to maintaining the peace process begun by the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which brought power-sharing to Northern Ireland and largely drew the sectarian conflict known as "the Troubles" to a close.

Johnson claims that "alternative arrangements" could be used that would negate the need for a backstop, but Varadkar said on Monday that his government has yet to see any evidence of them.

The Dublin meeting came after Johnson suffered a string of defeats in the House of Commons, and saw two senior ministers walk out of his Cabinet, one his own brother.

Johnson will try for a second time to get Parliament to agree to an election on Monday night. According to British law, only lawmakers in the House of Commons can vote to hold an election before the next scheduled one in 2022. Parliament voted against an election last Wednesday.

Opposition MPs have made clear they will not vote for an election while a "no-deal" Brexit remains possible.

Reuters contributed.