Brexit: MPs’ vote on deal ruled out by Speaker John Bercow

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Media captionBercow: The motion will not be debated today

The Commons Speaker has refused a government request to hold a “yes” or “no” vote on its Brexit deal.

John Bercow said a motion on the deal had already been brought before MPs on Saturday, and it would be “repetitive and disorderly” to debate it again.

Saturday’s sitting saw an amended motion nodded through by MPs, withholding approval of Boris Johnson’s deal until it has been passed into law.

The PM’s spokesman said he was “disappointed” by the decision.

He added: “The Speaker has yet again denied us a chance to deliver on the will of British people.”

The UK is due to leave the EU in 10 days, and while Mr Johnson and fellow EU leaders have agreed a new deal to allow that to happen, it cannot come into force until it is approved by both the UK and European parliaments.

The government wanted to hold a “yes” or “no” vote – or so-called “meaningful vote” – on its deal on Saturday, but MPs instead chose to back an amendment tabled by former Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, which said that could not happen until legislation, called the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), was passed.

The WAB will be introduced later, but will then have to go through full parliamentary scrutiny in both the Commons and the Lords.

No 10 was pushing for a second shot at a meaningful vote on Monday, but Mr Bercow told the Commons he would not allow it, and had come to that decision on the basis of a parliamentary convention dating back to 1604.

He cited Parliament’s rulebook, Erskine May, which says a motion that is the same “in substance” as a previous one cannot be brought back to the Commons during the course of a single parliamentary session.

The Speaker also said the circumstances around the motion had not changed, so his ruling was “necessary… to ensure the sensible use of the House’s time and proper respect for the decisions that it takes”.

Brexiteer anger

But Tory MP and Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin appeared to accused Mr Bercow of bias, saying it was “remarkable” how often the Speaker “pleased one lot and not the other”.

“It is most unusual for a Speaker so often to prevent the government having a debate on the matters which the government wish put before the House,” he added.

Fellow Tory David T C Davies said: “The only consistency one can find in your rulings is that they always seem to favour one side of the argument and never the government.”

But Mr Bercow disagreed, adding: “The consistent thread is I try to do what I think is right by the House of Commons.”

Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

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IN BRIEF: How Parliament forced a delay

EXPLAINED: How the delay request works

ANALYSIS: What is in Boris Johnson’s new deal?

IN GRAPHICS: What happens now?

IN FULL: Boris Johnson’s Brexit delay letters

The Letwin amendment also meant Mr Johnson was required to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline, according to the terms of the Benn Act.

The PM sent the required letter to the EU but did not sign it, and sent a second letter saying he thought a delay was a mistake.

Meanwhile, the European Parliament’s Brexit Steering Group advised MEPs on Monday not to vote on whether to approve the deal until it gets the full sign-off from the UK.

BBC Brussels reporter Adam Fleming said they could hold a special session next week to approve it, but it was more likely to happen at their next planned session on 13 November – meaning an extension would be needed.

What is in the PM’s deal?

The deal ditches the backstop – the controversial “insurance policy” designed to prevent a return to physical checks on the Irish border.

Instead it will, in effect, draw a new customs border in the Irish Sea, because goods which could then travel onwards to Ireland will have to pay a duty tax.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told a Lords committee Northern Irish businesses would also have to complete export declarations to send any goods to the UK.

The whole of the UK will leave the EU customs union, meaning it could strike trade deals with other countries in the future.

What about the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?

The WAB will give legal effect to the withdrawal deal, as well as any agreed transition period, and fulfils requirements on the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.

It will also allow ministers to make “divorce payments” to the EU foreseen under the current deal.

But MPs will be able to vote on amendments – changes or add-ons – to the bill.

Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has said his party will push for changes to the WAB, including demanding a UK-wide customs union with the EU and single market alignment, and backing moves to put the deal to a referendum.

But the PM’s spokesman has reiterated the government’s opposition to both proposals.

If the government cannot get the bill through Parliament, the default legal position is for the UK to leave without a deal on 31 October, but that will change if the EU grants an extension.

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