'Boris the dictator' - How the newspapers reacted to PM's plan to suspend parliament

PUBLISHED: 09:34 29 August 2019 | UPDATED: 09:41 29 August 2019

Front page of La Libre in Belgium. Photograph: La Libre.

Front page of La Libre in Belgium. Photograph: La Libre.

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There were strong reactions to Boris Johnson's plans to prorogue parliament - both in the British press and across Europe.

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The front page of Spanish newspaper ABC. Photograph: ABC.The front page of Spanish newspaper ABC. Photograph: ABC.

With some papers emphasising the "rogue" in "prorogue", the Independent captured the mood for several titles under a stark headline, on an otherwise white top half of its front page, dubbing the episode "The Johnson Coup".

"With just 63 days until the 31 October deadline," the paper's lead story began, "an unelected prime minister has made himself unaccountable to MPs for five weeks."

"Not only does Boris Johnson want to deny voters the final say, he is now silencing their representatives. All in the name of democracy."

In its editorial, the Independent said the move was a "devious" and "underhand" attempt to override democracy and that it must be defeated in parliament, which sits again next week.

The Guardian's editorial called Johnson's step, which required the Queen's assent, "an act of wanton constitutional vandalism".

Despite the prime minister claiming it was designed to allow him to enact a "bold and ambitious legislative agenda", the paper said it was undoubtedly a device to silence parliament before the October 31 Brexit deadline.

"Mr Johnson is hijacking powers symbolically vested in the crown and wielding them in aggression against his parliamentary opponents," the paper said.

"That he does it in pursuit of a hard Brexit is distressing for pro-Europeans. That he is prepared to do it at all should alarm everyone who values the traditions of British democracy."

The Financial Times took an even harder line, calling on MPs to call a no-confidence vote which would trigger an election.

"It is time for parliamentarians to bring down his government in a no-confidence vote, paving the way for an election in which the people can express their will," it said in its editorial.

The Metro used wordplay to make its point, with a front page headline of "Prorogue state". Similarly, the Daily Mirror ran a front page headline with "PRO" and "ROGUE" in different colours for emphasis.

At the other end of the political spectrum, The Daily Telegraph's editorial ran under a headline of: "The real outrage is the antics of the Remainers".

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"After three years of backsliding, compromise and humiliating defeat under Theresa May, the country has a prime minister who is evidently willing to do whatever it takes to carry out the people's will," the paper said.

The Times echoed that sentiment in its editorial, but added a warning that the prime minister might face problems in parliament in the future, since it was "dangerous to unite your opponents in righteous indignation".

The Sun ran with a front page headline of "Ballsy Boris comes out fighting".

Elsewhere in Europe, the Irish Times lambasted Johnson's "reckless act" to railroad through a no-deal Brexit, which it says would not only harm Britain's economy but "also hurt Ireland and the EU".

It said opponents of a no-deal exit must now stop him.

"No matter how often Johnson and his acolytes claim they are implementing the will of the people, one fact cannot change: nobody voted for this," the paper said.

"Not a single British citizen was ever asked to approve a hard Brexit, let alone a no-deal."

In Belgium, La Libre called it "the dangerous coup de force of Boris Johnson," while De Standaard gave prominence to the European Parliament's Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt's reaction that "taking back control" had "never looked so sinister".

Germany's Deutsche Welle's English version ran a simple headline of "Boris the dictator" above an editorial saying a "weakness in the British political system - rooted in its archaic traditions and heritage - is coming back to haunt the country".

"What Johnson is doing ... is befitting a military dictatorship," it said.

"It is anti-democratic and matches the havoc wreaked by US president Donald Trump and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro.

"These new ravagers are only interested in power for themselves, and their financiers among the ranks of the super-rich. To them, democratic procedures and institutional controls are simply tiresome accessories."

Spanish daily ABC relayed the news with a symbol of anarchy, doctoring the cover of 1970s punk rock hit God Save The Queen to substitute the name of the Sex Pistols with that of Boris Johnson.

France's Liberation ran a front page photo of Johnson under a headline of "Brexit - harder and harder".

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