Queen Elizabeth II reportedly sought advice from advisors on circumstances under which she could dismiss a sitting prime minister, said journalist Ian Birrell, citing an anonymous source.
“One well-placed source told me the Queen had, for the first time in her reign, sought advice on sacking a prime minister before the Supreme Court verdict,” Birrell wrote in his column for the i newspaper.
A Buckingham Palace representative noted that the institution does not comment on rumors.
Despite often being portrayed as having a solely ceremonial role, the British Queen in fact can wield a significant political punch, known as prerogative powers. Among those powers are the appointment and dismissal of ministers, including the Prime Minister. In 2003, the House of Commons select committee established that these powers include the Queen’s right to act contrary to or even without ministerial advice in the case of a “grave constitutional crisis.” The fact that the Queen was unwilling to exert those powers does not make them any less real.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing significant criticism in Parliament following his request to the Queen to suspend the governing body for five weeks. The Supreme Court ruled this week that the Prime Minister request was unlawful. Unconfirmed reports suggest that Johnson personally called the Queen and apologized for the “embarrassment” caused by the court ruling. In response to Johnson’s royal request, lawmakers plan a vote of no confidence aimed at ousting the PM, which would replace him with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn acting as a “caretaker Prime Minister.”
Johnson became the prime minister in July 2019, following the resignation of Theresa May, who failed to break a deadlock on Brexit. Her Brexit deal, although supported by the EU, was repeatedly rejected by Parliament. Johnson, a hard-line Brexiteer, suspended Parliament and many speculated that he did it to avoid the same quagmire that bogged May’s tenure.
On October 31, the UK will separate from the EU, most likely without a deal, unless Johnson is able to secure a third extension.