As Boris Johnson has shut down the Parliament for a record five weeks (the longest in the past 40 years), the legislative body is formally opened only by the Queen's Speech, an iconic and indispensable part of the State Opening of Parliament.
Although a rather standard procedure, it doesn’t happen annually: it was last held back in 2017. Here are the essentials to know for those curious about how the UK Parliament is technically opened:
- The Queen arrives at the Houses of Parliament, through the Sovereign Entrance. She then puts on the Imperial State Crown and Robe of State, and leads a procession through the Royal Gallery into the chamber of the House of Lords. (There have been exceptions, though, when in violation of protocol, after a snap vote for Theresa May in 2017, the Parliament was re-opened by the Queen in a day dress and a hat instead of the crown).
- Members of the House of Commons then join the Lords in their chamber, but not until a House of Lords official, known as the "Black Rod", is sent to summon them, with the Commons symbolically slamming the door just in front of him to signify the separation and independence of the two chambers.
- The "Black Rod" then bangs on the door three times, also symbolically, before the Commons open it and follow him through.
- This is the moment when the Queen starts delivering her speech, outlining the governmental and legislative focal points for the upcoming year.
- … and last but not least: the monarch's speech is in fact written by none other than the prime minister and his team.
In a much reported and debated development, Boris Johnson shut down the Parliament in early September for five weeks, with MPs expected to return to work no sooner than 14 October, right after the Queen is scheduled to deliver her speech.
The prorogation took place after two failed votes to call a snap election, as the debate around a Brexit deal or, alternatively, a no-deal exit became overwhelmingly heated.
Around the same time, MPs voted for a bill forcing the prime minister to delay Brexit until the end of January in case there is no common position on a deal with the EU, with the prime minister vehemently opposing the law.
Early this week, the debate around the legality of the suspension reached the Supreme Court, where several hearings over the case have already taken place, under the initiative of several campaigners arguing that Johnson had tried to silence Brexit opponents.
The PM stressed that the prorogation had been given royal consent, with Mr Rees-Mogg, who travelled all the way to Balmoral for the Queen's approval, hitting back that it was "nonsense" to suggest she had been misled over the decision.
The defence in the Supreme Court on behalf of the UK government is arguing that the decision to prorogue Parliament was a political move and should by no means be looked into by a court.