The Queen has approved Boris Johnson’s controversial plan to suspend parliament as the UK edged closer to a no-deal Brexit on October 31.
After a meeting of the Privy Council at Balmoral, the monarch backed the prime minister’s request for parliament to be prorogued between September 9 and October 14.
The news sparked a chorus of angry reaction from MPs across the political spectrum on Wednesday, with Commons speaker John Bercow calling the move a “constitutional outrage”.
It means that MPs who have formed an alliance to stop Johnson taking the UK out of the EU without an agreement face a race against time.
The PM insisted on Wednesday that there will be “ample” time for MPs to oppose his Brexit plans and the decision to suspend parliamentary business allows time for the government to set out a new domestic agenda.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson have both written to the Queen to ask for a meeting. Meanwhile, former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major said he is seeking advice on the legality of Johnson’s move.
Opposition leaders met on Tuesday and agreed to table legislation that would block a no-deal Brexit when parliament returns on Tuesday September 3.
A string of Tory backbenchers have suggested they could rebel and destroy Johnson’s wafer-thin majority in the Commons.
Sir John Major said: “I have no doubt that the prime minister’s motive in seeking prorogation is to bypass a sovereign parliament that opposes his policy on Brexit.
“As events unfold, I will continue to seek advice on the legality of this and other matters, but will be making no further comment for the time being.”
Former Tory minister Sir Oliver Letwin, who has led previous attempts to block a no-deal Brexit under Theresa May, described the government plan to prorogue parliament as “not a proper way to proceed”.
“I expect that parliament will respond in the only way it can: by legislating next week, before it is prorogued, to prevent a disorderly, undemocratic no-deal exit on 31 October,” he tweeted.
“I shall certainly be supporting that effort.”
Earlier, leading Conservative rebel Dominic Grieve, who is the former attorney general, suggested he and several fellow Tories could go further and vote to bring down Johnson’s government by backing a no-confidence motion.
Grieve called Johnson’s plan a “reckless” and “unconstitutional” bid to avoid scrutiny in the Commons.
“I have always made clear that I want to stop a no-deal Brexit. I will take staged, graded measures to do it,” he said.
“I would wish if at all possible to avoid bringing down a Conservative government on a vote of no confidence but if that is what is ultimately took I would be willing to do it.
“I think there are a number of colleagues who have said exactly the same thing.”
Corbyn has accused the government of a “smash and grab” approach to democracy. He added that in his letter to the Queen he “protested in the strongest possible terms on behalf of my party and I believe all the other opposition parties are going to join in with this”.
Swinson said Johnson’s “anti-democratic plan to shut down parliament” must be stopped.
She said: “This is a crucial time in our country’s history, and yet our prime minister is arrogantly attempting to force through a no-deal Brexit against the democratic will. He is outrageously stifling the voices of both the people and their representatives.”