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The battle for Brexit took an ominous turn this week when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that he would suspend Parliament for five weeks to give his government time to secure a better deal with the European Union. The move is both legal and tactically sound: It will give the besieged prime minister leverage to deal with Brussels. Those justifications (and others) notwithstanding, the decision raises foundational questions for Brexit supporters who seek “to reclaim sovereignty” — a claim that rings hollow when their first step is to suspend Parliament.

Johnson inherited a fraught situation from Theresa May, his predecessor at 10 Downing Street. May had negotiated a Brexit deal that could not win approval in Parliament. Repeated attempts to win legislative backing for any arrangement proved beyond her ken and she resigned in consequence. Worse, May bequeathed Johnson a two-seat majority — one of which was lost in a recent by-election — and a governing coalition that depends on support from 10 legislators from Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party. The DUP is pro-Brexit and has denounced the backstop — which maintains a “soft border” between the two halves of Ireland to promote continuing reconciliation — insisting that it demotes Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. The backstop also creates a customs union between the EU and the entire U.K., which defeats the purpose of Brexit in the eyes of many its supporters.

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