What’s the deal with prorogation?

By Jerome Doraisamy|01 September 2019

The political and legal plot has thickened in the UK in the past week, writes Emma Guest.

Over recent days you may have heard rumblings about the fact that the British parliament is to be shut down by the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The timing of this shutdown is somewhat critical as it could have the implication that the UK could leave the EU without a deal as it would prevent parliament from blocking a no-deal Brexit. This has been described by the leader of the opposition as a “coup”.

This action may also result in a number legal challenges, protests and constitutional questions. You may have also seen reference to the term prorogation”, which unless you are a constitutional lawyer, is probably not a term you are too familiar with, or the political implications.

Let me try to explain: the term prorogation” refers to the shutting down of parliament, it must be done by royal decree which was given by the Queen at the request of Mr Johnson.

Legal precedent and constitutional challenges

The timing of this decision to shut down parliament is so controversial because opponents see it as a deliberate way of stopping MPs in the House of Commons being able to have the opportunity of debating a deal on behalf of the UK.


It would be parliament that would be able to prevent a no-deal Brexit being approved by the PM. It would also have the consequence that the time available to MPs to reach an agreement and pass legislation to stop a no-deal Brexit on 31 October later this year would be severely limited.

It also brings into question constitutional issues of the separation of powers under the legislative, executive and judicial functions. The House of Commons Speaker John Bercow, has described it as a constitutional outrage.

He continued, stating that however it is dressed up, it is blindingly obvious that the sole purpose of suspending parliament now would be to stop MPs debating Brexit and performing its duty in shaping the course for the country.

In all this uncertainty about what lies ahead, one thing is certain there will be a number of both critical legal and constitutional questions which currently remain unanswered.

Emma Guest is an author, UK-qualified lawyer and is a change manager at RS Consulting.

What’s the deal with prorogation?
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