Brexit

Politicians hit out at Boris Johnson plans to suspend Parliament

Anti-Brexit protesters outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday. Picture by Aaron Chown, Press Association

THE British government's suspension of Parliament has been criticised as an "abuse of process" by most of Northern Ireland's political parties, with the prime minister branded a "tin-pot dictator".

The SDLP, Ulster Unionists, Alliance and Sinn Féin have hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson's move to prorogue Parliament just days after MPs return to work next month.

Only the DUP, who are propping up Mr Johnson's minority government through a confidence-and-supply deal, have backed the move.

The controversial request was approved by Queen Elizabeth's Privy Council yesterday afternoon.

The decision means MPs will have less time to pass laws aimed at stopping a no-deal Brexit on October 31.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the Conservative leader was behaving like a "tin-pot dictator".

"Every MP should take a stand in this moment, to defend the interests of people across these islands but particularly in the north where businesses and border communities will suffer the most as a result of a no-deal coup," he said.

"There is now a compelling democratic imperative to stop Johnson and stop this Brexit."

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said the move displayed the British government's "arrogance" and "contempt" for its own political institutions.

"The fact is that Brexit is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement and the Tories have shown a total and callous disregard for our country and the democratically expressed wishes of the people of the north to remain in the EU," she said.

"The need to protect Irish interests is paramount."

However, DUP leader Arlene Foster said her party supported the move to suspend Parliament.

The DUP is set to review its agreement with the Tories ahead of Parliament's return on October 14.

"As outlined in the confidence and supply agreement in 2017, the terms of that agreement will also be reviewed in advance of the new session," Mrs Foster said.

"We originally envisaged that being after two years. This will be an opportunity to ensure our priorities align with those of the government."

Alliance leader Naomi Long said the move "follows in the footsteps of other dictators".

"It is the desperate act of a prime minister who knows Parliament opposes a no deal but who will attempt to push it through regardless," she said.

She said it was "utterly appalling the DUP are giving cover to this Parliamentary coup, when they know full well through the leaking of Operation Yellowhammer, the severe effects a reckless no deal will have on Northern Ireland, a Northern Ireland they profess to seek to serve".

Green Party NI Leader Clare Bailey claimed Mr Johnson was trying to "stage a constitutional coup".

"The anti-EU rhetoric at the time of the referendum was about taking back control," she said.

“Right now, there is (an) attempt to take control away from the people and allow a small section of Brexiteers to crash us out of Europe."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said the planned suspension is an "abuse of process" and will "create more division".

"If we want Parliament to pass an agreement with the EU before October 31, this isn't the way to go about it," he said.

“We need to see an end to the plotting from both sides in Westminster and that replaced by politicians focused on getting a deal so that the United Kingdom leaves the EU in an orderly fashion. Otherwise the people of Northern Ireland will be caught in the middle."

He said politicians should work to reach a consensus on a withdrawal agreement and claimed that the backstop aimed at preventing a hard border is a threat to the Good Friday Agreement.

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