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Stopping an anti-Brexit bill

August 10th, 2019

Letter to Daily Telegraph published on 10th August 2019 under the title “Recent history shows that royal powers could stop an anti-Brexit bill”.

Beside advising the Queen to withhold assent to a bill which has passed all stages in the Houses of Commons and Lords, as mentioned by Andrew Roberts (Comment, August 8), the Prime Minister can advise the Queen to withhold her consent to a bill proceeding beyond second reading where it touches on any of the 14 royal prerogative powers, which include the making of international treaties and declarations of war.

Such consent has been withheld three times in the United Kingdom during the present Queen’s reign, the most recent being in 1999, on the advice of Tony Blair.

This was in respect of a bill introduced by the late Sir Tam Dalyell, intended to make military action against Iraq contingent on approval by a majority vote in the House of Commons. Second reading was postponed and the bill fell because the Queen’s consent for it to be debated was withheld.

There are, therefore, recent precedents for stopping an anti-Brexit bill in its tracks between September 3 and October 31, so long as the Prime Minister tenders the relevant advice to the Queen.