Reaction in the British and European press to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to prorogue parliament was predictably strong on Thursday, with most papers sternly opposed to the radical manoeuvre and more right-leaning rivals more supportive.

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.”

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“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 Mr 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.

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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”.

“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 voiced a more cheeky confidence vote, with a front page headline of “Ballsy Boris comes out fighting”.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Irish Times lambasted Mr 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 Mr Johnson under a headline of “Brexit – harder and harder”.

Alexandre Counis in Les Echos writes that Boris Johnson has decided to “push the atomic button” by asking the Queen to prorogue Parliament. The French financial newspaper notes that this will give more freedom to the new Prime Minister to try and negotiate a better deal with the EU than Theresa May’s, without having to run a long and difficult parliamentary guerrilla with the opponents to no deal.

No doubt, the Queen probably choked on her porridge, according French daily Libération, when she learned of this “disguised putsch”, or perhaps  a declaration of war from the British government on its Parliament. The left-wing newspaper says Johnson is playing with fire: while his latest move would allow him to keep control over the Brexit agenda, he also risks an early general election.

Pat Leahy writes in the Irish Times that Johnson is in  a very good place to win a snap election, and his “outrageous act” is in fact aimed at pushing his opponents to vote against him in a vote of no confidence to trigger an election. The Irish  newspaper’s political editor adds that while the move is “entirely logical”, it is no less a “thrashing of the British constitution and Parliamentary democracy.” It also demonstrates how much he has “seized the political initiative.”

Italian daily La Reppublica compares Johnson to Charles 1 who triggered the English Civil war when he tried to gag Parliament - and the newspaper reminds its readers that the King was later beheaded when he lost the battle against the parliamentarians, perhaps hinting that the Prime Minister’s struggles are far from over.