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World & Nation

An unrepentant Boris Johnson faces a raucous Parliament returning to Brexit debate

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cut short a trip to the U.N. General Assembly in New York as demands for his resignation rose from opposition parties.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cut short a trip to the United Nations General Assembly in New York as demands for his resignation rose from opposition parties.
(Matt Dunham / Associated Press)

An unrepentant Prime Minister Boris Johnson brushed off cries of “Resign!” and dared the political opposition to try to topple him Wednesday at a raucous session of Parliament, a day after Britain’s highest court ruled he acted illegally in suspending the body ahead of the Brexit deadline.

Amid shouts, angry gestures and repeated cries of “Order!” in the House of Commons, Johnson emphatically defended his effort to withdraw Britain from the European Union by Oct. 31, with or without a separation agreement with the EU.

“I say it is time to get Brexit done,” he declared, accusing his opponents of trying to frustrate the will of the people, who voted by 52%-48% for Brexit in 2016.

Johnson was greeted with applause from his own Conservative lawmakers and jeers from the opposition side as he faced the Commons, hours after cutting short a trip to the United Nations in New York.

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He flew home early after Britain’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled 11-0 Tuesday that his attempt to suspend Parliament for five weeks had the effect of stymieing its scrutiny of the government over Brexit. The court declared the suspension void.

The leader of the main opposition Labor Party, Jeremy Corbyn, said the prime minister is not fit to govern and “should have done the honorable thing and resigned” after the ruling. He said Johnson “thinks he is above the law” and has shown “no shred of remorse or humility.”

“Have you no shame, prime minister?” said Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader in Parliament. Labor Party lawmaker Jess Phillips urged Johnson “to act with some humility and contrition.”

Lawmakers accused him of undermining democracy and misleading Queen Elizabeth II when he asked for her permission to prorogue, or suspend, Parliament.

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Johnson ignored calls to step down and showed no sign of contrition. He has said he strongly disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling.

The prime minister said a new election is the only way to unblock Britain’s “paralyzed Parliament.”

“I think the people of this country have had enough of it — this Parliament must either stand aside and let this government get Brexit done or bring a vote of confidence and finally face the day of reckoning with the voters,” he said.

A no-confidence vote could bring down his government and lead to a new election.

Opposition lawmakers and some Conservative rebels have said they will back an election only if a no-deal Brexit is ruled out.

Economists have warned that leaving the EU without a deal will disrupt Britain’s trade with the Continent and plunge the country’s economy into recession and could bring shortages of food and medicine.

Parliament has passed a law requiring Johnson to seek a Brexit extension if there is no deal, but he has said he won’t do that under any circumstances.

Johnson has few easy options if the opposition does not agree to a snap election. He has not ruled out suspending Parliament again, although that would probably be challenged in court.

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Ultimately, he hopes to contest an election in which he would paint himself as the champion of the people against a recalcitrant establishment bent on frustrating the 2016 vote to leave the EU.

He has branded the anti-no-deal law the “Surrender Act” and accused opponents of undermining democracy.

Some lawmakers urged him to temper his language, saying Britain’s political climate is becoming dangerously overheated. Pro-EU lawmakers have been branded “traitors” by some Brexit supporters, and police have investigated threats against several members of Parliament.

“The tone of the prime minister’s speech was truly shocking,” said Green Party legislator Caroline Lucas. “This populist rhetoric is not only unfitting for a prime minister, but it is genuinely, seriously dangerous.”


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