The administration of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is really turning into an era of disruption. (Some in the BBC are already calling him “the British Trump.”) He’s taken something of a bull in the china shop approach to dealing with both Brexit and his relationship with the Parliament. After apologizing to the Queen for what the UK Supreme Court deemed his illegal dismissal of the legislature for several weeks, BoJo has found himself on the ropes. And now, to top it all off, there are reports that the Queen was talking to her legal advisers about the possibility of dismissing him from his office. (NY Post)
Queen Elizabeth II sought advice on how she could sack UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson after he unlawfully shut down Parliament for five weeks, according to a new report.
The monarch reportedly sought advice on the circumstances and process by which she could get rid of Johnson after he asked her permission to shutdown the House of Commons in September, according to a report published Sunday in Britain’s i Newspaper.
It was the first time in her 67-year reign that the Queen asked for clarification on how to dismiss a British prime minister, the report claimed.
One question that immediately comes to mind for many of us is… can she do that? And the answer is, technically yes. She can. If Johnson were to lose a vote of no confidence and refuse to step down, the PM technically serves “at the Queen’s pleasure.” (Or the King, as the case may be.) But the problem with much of British law is that it relies heavily on precedent and tradition with much of it not being formally codified in actual legislation. In fact, the office of Prime Minister isn’t officially established by any statute or constitutional document. It only exists because of long-established convention and it evolved over a long period of time to the position we see today.
As noted in the linked article, the Queen has never considered forcibly removing a sitting Prime Minister over the course of her long reign. While Queen Elizabeth II could technically dismiss BoJo, she would have to be absolutely certain that she had the solid support of at least a majority of the people. Such a move could be viewed as a “rogue monarch” seeking to take back absolute authority from the Parliamentary officials elected by the citizens. If the move was too unpopular it could bring the monarchy crashing down once and for all.
The problem is, there’s nothing forcing Boris to step down even if he loses an election. At issue right now is the recent passage of the Benn Act. That new law forces Johnson to order a three-month pause in the Brexit process if he doesn’t procure a deal with the EU that Parliament approves of. But BoJo has at least hinted that he might not have to obey that law and could bring Great Britain crashing out through a no-deal Brexit on October 31st if he so chooses.
Sky News dragged a quote out of former Conservative MP Dominic Grieve as to what would happen in that event. He said, “He’ll be out in five minutes. He’ll be dismissed.”
When asked to clarify if he meant dismissed by the Queen, Grieve responded in the positive. Whether he is just offering an opinion or has some inside knowledge of what the Queen is thinking remains unclear. But one thing for certain is that, much like voters in the United States, the Brits have clearly lived to see interesting times.