It seems these days like a week can’t go by without the Brits doing something nuts. This week is no different! Here’s what’s happening.
You may recall that there’s this thing called Brexit going on. People voted to leave the European Union over three years ago, and things have been a gigantic clusterfuck since then. Now, certified wanker Boris Johnson is the prime minister, and he really wants to leave the EU. There are two ways he could do this: by striking a deal with the EU, or by leaving without one. Many, many, many people—including a lot who work for Johnson’s own government!—say that leaving without a deal would be an economic and social catastrophe, but there are also tons of people who want to get out no matter what. Johnson is one of them.
As things currently stand, the UK will leave without a deal on Oct. 31 unless something changes. Johnson is fine with this, but he faces stiff opposition from Parliament, where he has a working majority of just one and where opposition MPs have been openly maneuvering to try and wrest control of Brexit from him and force him to abandon a no-deal outcome. The big problem they face is a ticking clock: There’s only so much time for them to stop Johnson before the UK crashes out without a deal by default.
So today, Johnson pulled an audacious and unprecedented move to give them even less time: He went to the Queen and got Parliament suspended (or “prorogued”) for a huge chunk of September and October, thus cutting into the time his opponents have to stymie him. In other words, Johnson is hampering Parliament’s democratic ability to hold him to account. This is technically legal, but it’s also totally fucked up.
Because British people do the stupidest things in only the fanciest ways, the notice came in this florid piece of paper:
Johnson framed this as merely a chance for his government to get some space to introduce an exciting domestic program and said MPs would have lots of time to debate Brexit, so it was fine, and no big deal.
Very few people bought this explanation. It’s a really big deal.
That’s the leader of the opposition, the man in charge of Parliament itself, and the former prime minister of Boris Johnson’s own party all losing their shit. There’s plenty more where that came from.
Tonight, mass protests have broken out in London.
So, in a nutshell, people are very angry, and it’s hard to know exactly what’s going to happen next. There’s speculation that this could all be a setup for Johnson to call an election and rally Brexit-hungry voters with a Trump-style message that they can either choose him or the rogue politicians trying to destroy their dreams. There are also legal challenges afoot, so courts could possibly stop his plans. It’s all very insane. Mostly, though, it shows how mad the UK has been driven by Brexit, which has turned into a poisonous culture war, completely paralyzed the country’s political system, and sent the place tumbling into the outermost reaches of its constitution. Yikes.