Saturday, August 31, 2019

Explainer: What UK’s parliament suspension means for Brexit, and how it will affect S’pore

30 August, 2019

LONDON — Mr Boris Johnson, prime minister of the United Kingdom, announced on Wednesday (Aug 28) that Britain’s parliament will be suspended, or prorogued, for more than a month before Brexit.

The British parliament will not sit from mid-September to Oct 14, which means that Members of Parliament (MPs) are unlikely to have time to pass laws that could stop the UK from leaving the European Union (EU) without a deal on Oct 31.

The move has enraged opponents.

Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer and Labour party member John McDonnell has said that Mr Johnson’s decision is as good as a “British coup”, while protesters gathered on Wednesday across London — notably along the River Thames and outside the Houses of Parliament — to object to the move.

A public petition against the suspension has also garnered more than a million signatures.


The move to prorogue parliament usually happens once a year, normally in April or May, BBC News said.

During this time, no debates and votes are held in parliament, so most laws that haven't completed their passage through parliament are binned, though some may be "carried over" to the next session.

It is normal for new governments to shut down parliament; the 2016 parliament was closed for four working days and the 2014 parliament for 13. But the suspension of parliament heading into Oct 31 limits the time and influence MPs and ministers have in planning for a no-deal Brexit.

A no-deal Brexit means that overnight, the UK would leave the single market and customs union — arrangements designed to help trade between EU members by eliminating checks and tariffs (taxes on imports).

It also means that the UK would immediately leave EU institutions such as the European Court of Justice and Europol, its law enforcement body, as well as end UK’s membership to dozens of EU bodies that govern rules on everything from medicines to trade marks.

Parliament would also not be able to pass laws to cushion the impact of this no-deal. Such laws, for example, might deal with allocating extra money or resources.


Associate Professor Chong Ja Ian, a political scientist from the National University of Singapore (NUS), said in an interview with TODAY in July that the disruption a no-deal Brexit could bring to Europe could affect the global economy, which could in turn affect Singapore.

“Should Brexit distract the UK and Europe from supporting international institutions and rule of law that have so far benefited Singapore, that could be of concern to Singaporeans, too,” Dr Chong said.

Ms Selena Ling, head of treasury research and strategy at Singapore bank OCBC, told TODAY that the growing likelihood of a no-deal Brexit means that Singapore firms will be looking to take advantage of the softer British pound.

“Anecdotally, Singapore firms will be waiting to sniff out bargains,” Ms Ling said, adding that these are commonly firms that have sufficient liquidity and are “already familiar with the UK market and may have had some exposure (to it).”

However, Ms Ling also said that one big uncertainty is what happens the day after Oct 31.

“Will there be UK market chaos, shortages of fuel and medicine, and port congestion? Nobody knows,” she said.

Singapore, being a financial hub and safe haven, may see increased capital flows to its shores, she added.


To go to the courts might be the only way to revoke the suspension.

In July, Sir John Major, former Conservative prime minister, threatened to use the courts to stop parliament from being shut down.

He told BBC News: "The Queen's decision cannot be challenged in law but the prime minister's advice to the Queen can, I believe, be challenged in law — and I, for one, would be prepared to seek judicial review to prevent parliament being bypassed."

Sir Major and other lawmakers opposed to a no-deal Brexit will likely have to make their move next week if they are to avoid running out of time.


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