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Thursday September 19th, 2019 8:48AM

The Latest: UK govt formally suspends Parliament for 5 weeks

By The Associated Press
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LONDON (AP) — The latest on Brexit (all times local):

1:50 a.m.

The British government has formally suspended Parliament, sending lawmakers home for five weeks amid a Brexit crisis.

The legislature was officially prorogued, or suspended, with a formal ceremony in the House of Lords — but only after House of Commons Speaker John Bercow voiced his displeasure, saying many regard it as "an act of executive fiat."

There were raucous scenes in the House of Commons as opposition lawmakers chanted "Shame on you."

Lawmakers will return Oct. 14, little more than two weeks before Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31.

The opposition accuses Prime Minister Boris Johnson of trying to stop lawmakers studying his Brexit plan.

It is the first time in more than 70 years a British government has suspended Parliament when faced with opposition.

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12:40 a.m.

British lawmakers have rejected Prime Minister Boris Johnson's request for an election before the country's scheduled departure from the European Union next month.

A total of 293 of the 650 House of Commons members backed the proposal, well short of the two-thirds majority needed. Opposition lawmakers voted against the measure or abstained.

Johnson wants a snap election Oct. 15, just over two weeks before the scheduled Oct. 31 date for Brexit. But opposition parties say they won't support an election until Britain has secured a delay to the Brexit date, to ensure the country does not crash out of the bloc without a deal.

Parliament has ordered the government to seek an extension if there is no deal by late October, but Johnson is vowing not to seek a delay.

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7:35 p.m.

Britain's House of Commons has demanded the government hand over communications among officials about its decision to suspend Parliament and its plans for a no-deal Brexit.

Lawmakers passed a motion calling on the government to release, by Wednesday, "formal or informal" emails and text messages between aides and officials relating to the suspension, as well as to the impact of leaving the European Union without a deal.

Under parliamentary rules, the government is obliged to release the documents.

Lawmaker Dominic Grieve, who proposed the motion, said there were suspicions that Parliament was being suspended to stop the legislature from debating the risks of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement.

Johnson says he is cutting short the parliamentary term so he can outline his domestic agenda at a new session of Parliament in October.

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3:45 p.m.

U.K. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow says he will step down by the end of next month after a decade in the job.

Bercow told lawmakers that if Parliament votes Monday in favor of an early election, he will quit before the campaign. If they don't he will quit Oct. 31 — the day Britain is due to leave the European Union. 

He says he will quit both as speaker and as a member of Parliament.

Bercow has angered the Conservative government by repeatedly allowing lawmakers to seize control of Parliament's agenda to steer the course of Brexit. He says he is simply fulfilling his role of letting Parliament have its say.

The Conservatives had said they would run against Bercow in the next national election, breaking a convention that the speaker be elected unopposed.

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3:40 p.m.

A bill that would force British Prime Minister to seek a delay to the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline if no deal is reached has become law with approval by Queen Elizabeth II.

The royal approval was announced Monday by Norman Fowler, the speaker of the House of Lords.

The queen's approval was seen as a formality after the bill was approved by Parliament. It is opposed by the government.

It is designed to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson from taking Britain out of the European Union without an agreement with the other 27 nations in the bloc.

Johnson has said he will not seek a delay to the deadline.

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2:30 p.m.

France's prime minister has asked his government to be ready to handle "a certain level of disturbances" that would result from a possible no-deal Brexit.

Edouard Philippe said in a statement after a special meeting of ministers closely involved with Brexit that France is "preparing for all scenarios" in close cooperation with its European partners.

He said France has hired 600 extra customs agents to handle cross-border trade and security and 200 veterinaries.

Philippe said "tests in real conditions" will be performed in the coming weeks to ensure that new border-check facilities at French ports, train stations and airports are operational.

Britain is due to leave the European Union on Oct. 31.

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12:40 a.m.

There have been no breakthroughs at the meeting between British and Irish leaders on the Brexit impasse.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar said in a joint statement that their Monday meeting in Dublin was "positive and constructive."

They met privately over breakfast and then joined their delegations for more talks about how to deal with the difficult question of how to deal with the Irish border once Britain leaves the European Union.

The statement says "common ground was established" but that important gaps remain. No details were provided. The statement says they plan to meet again in the near future.

The Irish border has emerged as a main stumbling block in the stalled negotiations.

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11:40 a.m.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government has confirmed it will suspend the U.K. Parliament later Monday until Oct. 14.

Spokesman James Slack says Parliament will be prorogued, or suspended, at the close of the day's business.

Johnson has previously said he would send British lawmakers home sometime this week. The suspension limits Parliament's ability to block Johnson's plans for Brexit.

Johnson says the UK must leave the EU on Oct. 31, with or without a divorce agreement.

Lawmakers are trying to stop a no-deal Brexit, and some have branded the suspension a "coup."

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11:10 a.m.

Worries that Britain is set to fall into recession soon as a result of Brexit uncertainty have eased after official figures show that it expanded by a monthly 0.3% in July.

The increase reported by the Office for National Statistics follows a 0.2% contraction in the second quarter which stoked talk of a recession, widely defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

Most analysts also expect output in August to rise, too, as car manufacturers will be at work having brought forward their annual maintenance shutdowns to earlier in the year to deal with the initial Brexit date of March 29.

Though the economy looks set to grow in the third quarter of the year, it remains hobbled by Brexit. Business investment has been particularly weak as firms put off investment decisions while awaiting clarity over Britain's departure from the European Union, now scheduled for Oct. 31.

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10:25 a.m.

The Dutch government's statistics office says that British investment in the Netherlands has soared since the United Kingdom voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, while Dutch investment in Britain has shrunk.

The Central Bureau for Statistics says Monday that the data confirm perceptions "that British companies are moving their activities to the Netherlands because of uncertainty about Brexit."

The bureau says that U.K. investment in the Netherlands was 14 billion euros ($15.4 billion) in 2016. It more than doubled in 2017 and rose to 80 billion euros in 2018.

Meanwhile, Dutch investments in Britain — worth 50 billion euros in 2016 — fell to less than half that total in 2017 and the statistics office says that last year there was a Dutch "disinvestment" of 11 billion euros - meaning that businesses were withdrawing their investments from Britain.

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10:20 a.m.

Germany's foreign minister says he would like Britain's exit from the European Union to be as orderly as possible but that requires London to make clear proposals.

Heiko Maas noted in Berlin that the British Parliament has decided it wants to prevent a "no-deal" Brexit.

He added that "we remain in principle ready to talk, and we have to be in order to make possible as orderly a withdrawal as possible, but that ultimately requires clear decisions and proposals from London."

Maas reiterated that Britain will remain an "important strategic partner" with "extraordinarily close relations" to Germany after Brexit. But he didn't address the possibility of a delay to Britain's withdrawal beyond the current Oct. 31 deadline, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson's opponents want to force.

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10:05 a.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has told Ireland's leader that a Brexit deal can be reached so Britain leaves the European Union by Oct. 31.

Johnson told Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar that he believes a deal on the Irish border question can be secured in time to enable a smooth British departure from the EU by the scheduled Brexit date.

He said a "no-deal" departure from the European Union would represent a "failure of statecraft."

Varadkar also said at a joint appearance before the start of a meeting in Dublin that Britain has not produced any realistic alternatives to the controversial "backstop" agreement reached by Johnson's predecessor, Theresa May.

Opposition to the backstop was a key reason why Britain's Parliament rejected May's Brexit deal with the EU on three occasions earlier this year.

The backstop is intended to make sure that no hard border is put up between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.

The Irish leader says more negotiations are needed and that the Good Friday peace agreement, which states that no hard border is re-imposed on the island of Ireland, must be respected.

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8:55 a.m.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is to meet with Irish leader Leo Varadkar in search of a compromise on the simmering Brexit crisis.

The two are to meet in Dublin Monday morning for the first time since Johnson took power in July.

Varadkar has said he does not expect a breakthrough in the impasse over how the Irish border will be handled once Britain leaves the European Union.

Johnson plans to press a rebellious Parliament later Monday to back his plan for an early election, but opposition parties have said they will vote the measure down.

A new bill that seeks to force Johnson to seek a Brexit delay before the Oct. 31 deadline is set to become law on Monday.

Johnson has said he will not seek a delay.

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Follow AP's full coverage of Brexit and British politics at: https://www.apnews.com/Brexit

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