More than a million people have signed a petition against UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend the country’s Parliament in the second week of September, just weeks before the Brexit deadline on October 31.
By early Thursday it had garnered over 1.2 million signatures and was increasing by around 1,000 per minute, ten times the amount required for the issue be debated in the House of Commons, the UK’s lower chamber of lawmaking, reports Efe news.
The petition says: “Parliament must not be prorogued or dissolved unless and until the Article 50 period has been sufficiently extended or the UK’s intention to withdraw from the EU has been cancelled.”
It came as thousands of people marched outside Westminster on Wednesday evening, just hours after Johnson announced he would suspend Parliament from mid-September, a week after MPs reconvene on September 3 following the summer recess, until October 14, when there would be a Queen’s Speech.
A Queen’s Speech is held when a new government wants to set out its legislative agenda, but the move was swiftly criticized by opposition politicians and rebel conservatives for its timing, coming just before the UK is slated to leave the European Union (EU) on October 31.
The suspension, authorized by Queen Elizabeth II, leaves little time for lawmakers to debate legislation to block a possible no-deal Brexit, an option Johnson has hung onto should his government fail to negotiate changes to the current withdrawal deal.
That deal, a hangover from former Prime Minister Theresa May’s government, was rejected three times by MPs in the Commons.
Jeremy Corbyn, the opposition Labour Party leader who had been meeting with other opposition leaders this week to examine possible avenues to block a no-deal Brexit, said Wednesday he would request a meeting with the queen to ask her to reconsider Johnson’s request.
The official Conservative Party government line is that it is normal to hold a Queen’s Speech when a freshly formed executive wants to set out its program and that MPs would have time to vote on Brexit once Johnson returns from a European Council meeting scheduled for 17-18 October.
John Bercow, the Speaker of the House of Commons who normally remains impartial on the politics of parliamentary matters, on Wednesday described the move as a “constitutional outrage”.
With just 64 days until Brexit, talks between the UK and the EU’s negotiating teams have stalled.
Johnson, who campaigned for Leave in the run-up to the 2016 referendum, is opposed to the current withdrawal deal, which was drawn up by May and was rejected three times by the Commons.
The EU has repeatedly said it would not reopen the withdrawal deal. One of the key sticking points in the deal for hardline Brexit politicians like Johnson is the so-called Irish backstop — a mechanism that would ensure a soft border between Northern Ireland, a UK territory, and the Republic of Ireland, an EU member state, in the event that a future deal between the EU and the UK falls through.