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Boris Johnson feels wrath of Northern Ireland parties over Parliament suspension as UUP chief slams 'abuse of power'

UUP leader Robin Swann
UUP leader Robin Swann
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Northern Ireland political representatives have reacted angrily to news that Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask the Queen to suspend Parliament ahead of Brexit.

UUP leader Robin Swann said the move appeared to be an "abuse of Executive power" by the PM.

"I've heard people talk about cleverness, but it sounds more to me like semantics and games being played, with the very high tension we have in the country," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show.

"We've go the Lib Dems talking about declarations of war, we need to get the angry language taken out of this debate, the place to do that is in the House of Commons with the elected MPs that we have debating in a rational manner rather than taking it on to the streets, where there is a risk of this actually going.

"Brexit has been divisive and divisionary across the United Kingdom and I think this step, by the Executive, by the Prime Minister, is actually raising those tensions and he's playing into the hands of those who want to take that reactionary view on to the streets.

"We're a democratic country we should be having the democratic debate in properly elected institutions."

The UUP supports respecting the result of the EU Referendum, despite campaigning to stay in the EU ahead of the vote.

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SDLP leader Colum Eastwood. (Brian Lawless/PA)

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the move was "disgraceful" and "anti-democratic".

"He seems determined to destroy the Good Friday Agreement and ignore his own country's elected representatives. Some precious union," the Foyle MLA wrote on Twitter.

Mr Eastwood called on Northern Ireland's MPs to take a stand against the move.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reported to be planning an extended suspension of Parliament (Stefan Rousseau/PA)
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reported to be planning an extended suspension of Parliament (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“Proroguing your parliament to enforce the will of a government that has no democratic legitimacy for an act that has no majority support is the behaviour of a tin-pot dictator. Boris Johnson has stepped far outside the acceptable norms for a functioning democracy and he must be reined in," he said.

“This is a moment for political courage. 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.

“There is now a compelling democratic imperative to stop Johnson and stop this Brexit. DUP MPs who have nodded along with this and Sinn Fein MPs who refuse to act are facilitating this disaster. It’s time for leadership.”

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DUP MLA Jim Wells

DUP MLA Jim Wells said that the suspension of Parliament was a signal to the European Union that "we mean business".

Mr Wells, who has had the DUP whip withdrawn over disagreements with the party, said he thought the strategy would bring the EU to the negotiating table.

However the South Down MLA said that he believed the Government would face legal action over the plan.

"It's legitimate, under the standing orders of Westminster this is entirely legal," Mr Wells said.

"I'm uneasy, it would be better if we left the European Union with an agreement and there wouldn't be endless challenges through the legal system."

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Stephen Farry of Alliance

Alliance Party deputy leader Stephen Farry said the Prime Minister's plan was "cynical, cowardly and outrageous".

"This is a measure that is more akin to something you would see in an authoritarian state," the party's Brexit spokesperson said.

"We were told Brexit was allegedly supposed to be about taking back control and protecting parliamentary sovereignty, what we're seeing is the UK's unwritten constitution, the apolitical role of the monarch now being politicised and the constitution being undermined. All to be sacrificed on the altar of Brexit.

"I think we are in very, very difficult times and it's worth bearing in mind that the clock is still ticking on no-deal."

Mr Farry said that the Prime Minister had "no mandate" for a no-deal Brexit.

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The SDLP’s Claire Hanna

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said that Mr Johnson wanted to stop Parliament from thwarting a no-deal Brexit.

"Can you imagine if Jean-Claude Juncker had suspended the European Parliament to put through any directive at all," the South Belfast MLA asked.

"People who pitch themselves as democrats and UK nationalists are in turn attacking every single institution of the UK."

It emerged on Wednesday morning that the Prime Minister is expected to seek an extended suspension of Parliament ahead of the Queen's Speech on October 14

The House of Commons is currently expected to resume sitting after its summer break on September 3, but, according to the BBC, the Prime Minister will seek to suspend Parliament from around September 11 until the Queen's Speech.

It has been suggested the plan could hamper attempts by opposition MPs to block a no-deal Brexit, though Mr Johnson said that this was "completely untrue".

As it stands the UK will leave the European Union on October 31 without a deal.

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