I'm asking this as a follow up question after this one when Steve Melnikoff raised an interesting point in the comments as to whether there was a legal mechanism to postpone or call off a general election in the UK.

So can the Prime Minister call off or postpone a general election one way or another?


It's legally impossible to postpone the election without changing current laws. However, Parliament has been dissolved and thus laws cannot enacted or changed.

The two parliamentary acts that determine the date of the election — the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 and the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013 make no mention of delaying the election.

Section 2 of the Fixed Term Parliaments Act 2011 states that:

If a parliamentary general election is to take place as provided for by subsection (1) or (3), the polling day for the election is to be the day appointed by Her Majesty by proclamation on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (and, accordingly, the appointed day replaces the day which would otherwise have been the polling day for the next election determined under section 1).

(emphasis mine)

And the Queen has proclaimed the election to be held on June 8th:


Also, the Brexit Minister David Davis mentioned that the current laws have to be changed by Parliament. However, Parliament has been dissolved which makes it impossible to enact any new laws. Thus, the date of the election cannot be changed.

The Brexit Secretary suggested that, to change the date of the election, the current laws would have to be changed and that was likely to be impossible because there are currently no MPs and no parliament.

As quoted from the official UK Parliament website, business in Parliament will cease when it is dissolved:

House of Commons

MPs are allowed access to Parliament for just a few days in which to remove papers from their offices. The facilities that the House provides for MPs in Westminster during a Parliament are no longer available to them from 5pm on the day of dissolution.

House of Lords

Members of the House of Lords retain their positions, but all business in the House comes to an end when Parliament is dissolved.

  • If the queen can proclaim the election can she delay the election? – SleepingGod Jun 4 '17 at 14:56
  • 2
    @SleepingGod Legally no, since the related Acts only give the Queen the authority to proclaim the election and didn't mention anything about delaying it. The Queen might be able to do it but that would be unprecedented. It's worth noting that the 2001 UK General Election was delayed by 1 month due to the outbreak of the foot-and-mouth epidemic but that was done before the Parliament was dissolved and the election wasn't officially called yet. – Panda Jun 4 '17 at 15:05
  • Since the supreme court overruled Johnson's prorogation last month, would they be able to effectively annul the dissolution of parliament and force MPs back to work? – GeoffAtkins Nov 15 '19 at 16:18

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