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Johnson must seek thorough debate in Parliament to avoid no-deal Brexit

The Yomiuri ShimbunBritain’s exit from the European Union will significantly influence the future course of the country. Despite the fact that opinion is split in Britain over whether to leave, the British government has adopted a strategy of prioritizing its plan to realize the divorce while avoiding discussions on the matter in Parliament. This is problematic.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided to suspend Parliament from mid-September to mid-October, and notified members of Parliament of the decision. The new session has been set to start on Oct. 14.

The about one month duration of the suspension is unprecedented in the postwar period. Based on the British tradition of respecting documents on governance and custom as the “Constitution,” John Bercow, speaker of the lower House of Commons, took the unusual step of denouncing the decision as “a constitutional outrage.”

The suspension of Parliament does not befit the history of Britain, which has set an example for the world as the homeland of parliamentary democracy.

The Oct. 31 deadline for Brexit is fast approaching. Johnson has said the divorce will be carried out as scheduled regardless of a deal with the EU. He is unflinching in his hard-line stance of pushing for a no-deal Brexit.

Johnson said he picked the start of the new Parliament session because he wants to put forth ambitious policies to tackle such priority issues as public safety and medical care.

But it is unavoidable that the long shutdown of Parliament will significantly shorten the amount of time for deliberating the Brexit issue. The opposition camp aims to pass a bill banning a no-deal Brexit by joining hands with some elements of the ruling party who take a moderate stance on the Brexit issue. Johnson is likely aiming to nip the legislation in the bud.

Listen to opposing views

Johnson calls for modifying the Brexit deal hammered out by the previous British government of Prime Minister Theresa May and the EU. He conferred late this month with the leaders of Germany and France, among others, but failed to make a breakthrough.

The biggest point of contention is the issue of controlling the border between the British territory of Northern Ireland and Ireland. German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Britain to present a substitute Brexit plan first.

To ensure a smooth Brexit, Britain and the EU must agree on a modified Brexit deal in the two months remaining before the deadline, and the British Parliament must approve the revised deal. If Johnson continues to take a passive stance toward negotiations with the EU and securing support from a majority in Parliament, the possibility of a no-deal Brexit will grow.

Most British people who supported Brexit in the 2016 national referendum probably did not foresee the chaos that is occurring today. If Johnson pushes ahead with a hard Brexit without holding thorough discussions, the divisions in British society will become entrenched.

In his meeting with Johnson, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called for realizing an orderly Brexit and ensuring a minimum impact on Japanese firms. Johnson must listen sincerely to domestic and foreign opinions opposed to a no-deal Brexit.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2019)Speech



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