Boris Johnson has dismissed claims he is being anti-democratic as “a load of nonsense” – a day after he suspended parliament for the longest period in decades.
The prime minister pushed forward with his five-week prorogation of parliament after seeing MPs reject his call for a snap general election for a second time.
MPs will now not return to Westminster until 14 October, little more than a fortnight before the UK is scheduled to leave the EU on 31 October.
Opponents have accused Mr Johnson of using the suspension of parliament to circumvent the House of Commons over his Brexit plans, with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn claiming the prime minister is “running away from scrutiny”.
But, on a visit to a London primary school, Mr Johnson rejected those charges and stressed a new parliamentary session – to be opened by a new Queen’s Speech on 14 October – was needed in order to allow his government to move forward with its domestic agenda.
The prime minister used his school visit on Tuesday to launch an education drive which could see up to 30 new free schools established.
Mr Johnson said: “There’s a massive, massive agenda.
“We need a Queen’s Speech, that’s why parliament is in recess now – because you always have a recess before a Queen’s Speech.”
Then, employing “Franglais”, he added: “Anybody who says all this stuff about it being anti-democratic – donnez-moi un break (give me a break).
“What a load of nonsense.
“We were very, very clear – if people wanted a democratic moment, if they wanted an election, we offered it to the Labour opposition and mysteriously they decided not to go for it.
“So we’re going to get on. More free schools, more police, better hospitals – upgrading our hospitals – and coming out on 31 October.”
Despite promising to take the UK out of the EU on Halloween, with or without a deal, the prime minister currently appears stuck between his failure to force an election and a law aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit on 31 October.
Under the legislation passed by opposition MPs and Tory rebels, he will be compelled to request a further three-month delay to Brexit from the EU if he fails to strike a fresh divorce deal with the bloc by 19 October.
Mr Johnson again attacked those who forced through the law against the government’s wishes.
He said: “There are loads of people around the place who really want this thing done.
“That includes the British people but also in Brussels and our friends and partners across the EU.
“They want us to get on with this, it’s been dragging on for three years.
“I can see the policy of some opposition parties, Labour included, is to delay, dither beyond 31 October.
“But nobody can see what that achieves – it’s just another £1bn per month to stay in the EU.”
Mr Johnson has vowed to continue to negotiate with Brussels over a Brexit deal between now and an EU summit on 17 and 18 October.
He held talks with DUP leader Arlene Foster and DUP Westminster leader Nigel Dodds at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday evening.
Speaking after their meeting, Mrs Foster revealed the prime minister had restated his opposition to a Northern Ireland-only solution to the backstop issue.
Mr Johnson has demanded the backstop be abolished from the UK’s current withdrawal agreement, but it has recently been speculated he could revert to a former version of the arrangement – which applies solely to Northern Ireland rather than the whole UK – in order to make a breakthrough in negotiations.
Mrs Foster said: “The prime minister rejected a Northern Ireland-only backstop in a letter to [European Council president] Donald Tusk on 19 August.
“It is undemocratic and unconstitutional and would place a tariff border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. That would be unacceptable.
“During today’s meeting, the prime minister confirmed his rejection of the Northern Ireland-only backstop and his commitment to securing a deal which works for the entire UK as well as our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland.”
The backstop is aimed at avoiding a hard border on the island of Ireland but is opposed by Mr Johnson and other Brexiteers for leaving the UK aligned closely to EU rules, for an indefinite period, without any influence.
The prime minister also conducted a mini-reshuffle of his government on Tuesday, following the resignation of his brother Jo Johnson.
The former universities minister has been be replaced by Chris Skidmore, while Jo Johnson’s role as a cabinet attendee will be taken by environment and international development minister Zac Goldsmith.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will add the role of women and equalities minister to her responsibilities, which follows the resignation of cabinet minister Amber Rudd, who previously covered the brief.
On Tuesday, incoming European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen – who will take up her role and replace Jean-Claude Juncker on 1 November – said the EU had completed contingency preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
But she added such an outcome “will be way more difficult than an orderly Brexit”.
The former German defence minister has asked the EU’s current chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier to continue in his role.
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