Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament sparks Brexit protests
The anti-prorogation protest in London is fizzling out, with only a few hundred activists filtering through the streets outside Parliament.
Another small splinter group marched up the Mall towards the gates of Buckingham Palace, where there is a heavy security presence.
And traffic is at a standstill in Trafalgar Square, where some protesters are sitting on the roads, closely watched by police.
But in truth, the turnout at Saturday's rally will have disappointed organizers. Several thousand people showed up, but the event fell well short of attracting the "hundreds of thousands" of attendees promised beforehand.
Major anti-Brexit rallies have attracted huge crowds in the past, and that level of enthusiasm could well be on show again as the countdown to the October 31 deadline moves from months to weeks.
But just days after a petition against prorogation attracted more than 1.6 million signatures, the modest crowd was something of a surprise.
For Johnson and his team, though, protests and petitions were never likely to force a change in approach on Brexit. More robust challenges to his efforts to suspend Parliament will come during the week -- starting on Tuesday, when lawmakers get to work with attempts to block the prorogation and legal challenges are heard in courts in London and Scotland.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has spoken to crowds at the protest in Glasgow.
"I'm proud to be here with all of you supporting that, to say to Boris Johnson: no way, it's our Parliament," he said.
"No way do you take us out without a deal -- we will stop you and give the people their rights and their say to determine their future."
"Demonstrations are taking place everywhere because people are angered and outraged about what is happening," Corbyn added. "Angered that the government and a Prime Minister elected by 93,000 members of the Tory party is trying to hijack the needs, aims and aspirations of 65 million people."
"Well think on Boris, it's not on and we're not having it," he said.
Corbyn has said he will be supporting efforts to legislate against Johnson's move when Parliament reconvenes next week.
Demonstrators in London and around the UK are voicing their opposition to Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament.
In a rainy Manchester, several thousand have gathered in Albert Square. One protester had a critical but measured take on Johnson's premiership.
Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott has also addressed crowds at the London rally. She told them the party's leader Jeremy Corbyn had sent his support for the demonstration -- but Corbyn doesn't appear to be there in person.
"We are here outside 10 Downing Street trying to get Boris Johnson's attention, but let me tell you, before too long Jeremy Corbyn will be in 10 Downing Street and Boris will be gone," Abbott told attendees, the Press Association reported.
She then tried to start a call-and-response with the crowd, rallying them with a cry of "What Do We Want to Do?" But instead of the approved response -- "Stop the Coup!" -- many in the crowd shouted "Where is Jeremy?" per PA.
Corbyn has been taking part in an anti-prorogation event on Saturday, though, as he readies for the return of Parliament on Tuesday.
He said in a speech in Glasgow: "We will do absolutely everything we can to prevent a no-deal Brexit and the Prime Minister taking us into the hands of Donald Trump and a trade deal with the USA."
"That is the real agenda of the Prime Minister ... there is a lot of work being done in preparation for next Tuesday," he added. The Labour leader has already made clear that he plans to help efforts to legislate against Johnson's suspension of Parliament in the coming week.
Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was one of the first speakers at the London protest against Boris Johnson's suspension of Parliament.
"It is a fight to protect our democracy -- we know what Boris Johnson is up to, it is not very subtle is it?" McDonnell told the crowd, according to the Press Association. "He wants to close down our democracy and force through a no-deal Brexit."
McDonnell said previous generations fought and made huge sacrifices, some giving their lives, in the fight for parliamentary democracy so they could "have their say over policies and the future of our country."
"Boris Johnson, this is not about Parliament versus the people, this is about you versus the people," he added.
UK Chancellor Sajid Javid has brushed aside reports that he had had a row with his boss, Boris Johnson, over the reported sacking of one of his aides by the Prime Minister's key advisor.
Javid declined to discuss the widely reported firing of Sonia Khan in an interview with the BBC.
“I am not going to discuss any personnel issues. It would be inappropriate,” Javid said, before adding: “My relationship is fantastic with the Prime Minister.”
Khan was sacked abruptly Thursday night by Johnson advisor Dominic Cummings, Britain’s Press Association and other British media reported. Cummings was a key architect of the 2016 Brexit campaign.
British media linked the firing of Khan to the leak of government forecasts about what would happen under a no-deal Brexit. The Sunday Times reported details of the forecasts, code-named Operation Yellowhammer, on August 18.
Asked about the leak and the consequences of a no-deal Brexit on the economy, Javid – the country’s finance minister – admitted that the government “doesn’t know” how the economy would be affected.
He added: “Whether there is a deal or no deal, no government knows how their economy is going to perform.”
Javid was also pressed to comment on his previous criticism of the use of prorogation – the suspension of Parliament – which he equated to “thrashing democracy” in a Channel 4 leadership debate in June.
Javid was a Conservative Party leadership contender at the time. He lost out to Johnson, who announced this week that Parliament would be suspended for part of September and October.
In June, Javid said of prorogation: “We are not selecting a dictator of our country, we are selecting a prime minister of our country.”
But on Saturday, he told the BBC the quote was “taken completely out of context” and this prorogation was about a new prime minister exercising his prerogative for a Queen’s Speech and setting out a new course.
Javid added Parliament will have “plenty of time” for debating Brexit.
Protesters are starting to gather in Westminster for a day of demonstrations in the sunshine.
A few thousand people are already in position -- a far cry from the "hundreds of thousands" promised by organizers, but a decent showing for early in the day. A small number of people taunting the London protesters with shouts including “You lost Brexit” were escorted away by police.
As always, there's a colorful array of signs on display -- the slogans "Bring Down Boris" and "Defend Democracy" feature prominently, while one protester has a placard that says "Chuck Norris" -- presumably because it rhymes with something rude.
London’s Metropolitan Police declined to tell CNN how many officers they were putting on the streets, saying only “a proportionate policing plan is in place.”
Events have been arranged for around 80 sites up and down the UK on Saturday -- including the Shetland Islands, to the north of mainland Scotland -- while a rally in Cambridge attracted at least 300 people.
A few separate battles over Brexit could erupt next week.
Lawmakers and campaigners will be scrambling to bolster or block Boris Johnson's plan to suspend Parliament for five weeks from mid-September, with the Prime Minister facing potential challenges on a number of fronts.
Here's what to look out for:
Tuesday, September 3
- Parliament resumes after the summer recess, and the showdown against Johnson's power move begins. Lawmakers opposed to no-deal Brexit will have several days to legislate on the issue before Parliament is suspended on or after September 9.
- A legal challenge to the suspension will be heard in Scotland.
- A Northern Ireland court will decide whether a challenge to the suspension can go ahead.
Wednesday, September 4
- Chancellor Sajid Javid is scheduled to lay out his Spending Round, which will set departmental budgets for 2020-21. He is expected to announce an increase in public spending on education, health and police -- leading to speculation that it will the lay groundwork for a general election in the autumn.
Thursday, September 5
- Gina Miller's legal challenge over the suspension of Parliament will be heard in a court in London.
The legal action launched by businesswoman Gina Miller against the suspension of Parliament has garnered the support of former prime minister John Major, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party Tom Watson and Liberal Democrats leader Jo Swinson.
Miller, an anti-Brexit campaigner who orchestrated the successful campaign to ensure a parliamentary vote on any Brexit deal, told the BBC that Prime Minister Boris Johnson was "hijacking the Queen's prerogative power."
In an extraordinary move, Major -- who led the country from 1990 to 1997 -- joined the legal action on Friday. Labour's Watson then said he would also join the battle, because "the rights and freedoms of our citizens have been vandalized." Lib Dem leader Swinson came on board too, to prevent the "authoritarian power grab" of Johnson.