There is currently discussion in the UK about the possibility of a future Prime Minister proroguing Parliament in order to prevent it from frustrating their vision of Brexit. A big part of the discussion surrounds whether Her Majesty would accept a request from her Prime Minister to prorogue Parliament, or whether she would send him away and refuse.

A similar situation arose in Canada at the end of 2008, when the then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper was facing a vote of no-confidence in his minority government, which he looked certain to lose. He requested that Parliament be prorogued, and the then-Governor General agreed to this prorogation, thus avoiding this vote of no confidence.

To what extent, if any, would the precedent set by the Canadian Governor General apply to Her Majesty in the UK, or to Governors General in other Commonwealth realms, when their Prime Ministers make similar requests?

  • 2
    The 2008 prorogation was a very different situation. The government was not even two months old at that point, and prorogation in no way allowed the Canadian PM to "win" anything other than a delay in which to negotiate with the opposition. Agreeing to the PM's request was a reasonable decision by the GG, on the basis that holding too many elections too quickly is not healthy for the democratic system. Proroguing the UK parliament in order to force a No Deal would be an entirely different kettle of fish. A closer analogy might be Australia
    – Kevin
    Jun 9, 2019 at 20:08
  • I don't have an answer to this, but it's worth considering how precedent in other jurisdictions is handled in the courts. Wikipedia says: "The courts of England and Wales are free to consider decisions of other jurisdictions, and give them whatever persuasive weight the English court sees fit, even though these other decisions are not binding precedent. Jurisdictions that are closer to modern English common law are more likely to be given persuasive weight (for example Commonwealth states [...]). Jun 9, 2019 at 20:28

1 Answer 1


Such precedents are of interest, but are in no way binding. That follows from the constitutional principle of Parliamentary supremacy, which prevents Parliament from binding a future Parliament. That being the case, there's no way that a decision of Parliament, or the executive, in another country can be binding.

In the case at point, an attempt to prorogue the UK Parliament to prevent it reaching a decision on leaving the EU would be regarded by many people as outrageous, and would provoke an instant constitutional crisis.

  • 1
    While I agree with the general thrust of this answer, I'd argue (though I'm not an expert) that this has nothing to do with parliamentary supremacy, because carrying out a prorogation does not involve parliament - indeed, that's the reason why this issue is so controversial. Jun 9, 2019 at 20:24

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .