John Bercow blasts Theresa May for ditching crunch Brexit vote without Commons approval

Posted On: 
10th December 2018

John Bercow today laid into Theresa May after she scrapped a major Commons showdown on Brexit without seeking the permission of MPs.

Speaker John Bercow addressing parliament today
PA Images

The Speaker said it was "deeply discourteous" of the Prime Minister to shelve the meaningful vote on her Brexit deal in the face of certain defeat.

Mrs May admitted her plans were set to be voted down “by a significant margin” due to concerns about the Northern Irish backstop plan.

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Tory rebels had threatened to try to block the delay if it was put to a Commons vote.

But a Downing Street spokesman confirmed that the decision will go through on the nod using a simple Commons procedure where a government whip says "tomorrow" when a clerk reads out the orders of the day.

Mr Bercow accepted that the Government had the power to unilaterally ditch the vote due tomorrow night, but said it would have been "infinitely preferable" to ask MPs first.

He condemned the Government for pulling the U-turn “at this inordinately late stage” - after more than 100 MPs last week spent hours debating the deal ahead of the vote.

He said: “Halting the debate after no fewer than 164 colleagues have taken the trouble to contribute will be thought by many members of this House to be deeply discourteous.

“Indeed, in the hours since news of this intention emerged, many colleagues from across the House have registered that view to me in the most forceful terms.”

The Speaker said it would be right for the Government to let MPs vote on the change of plans - rather than simply declining to move the motion about the deal.

“I politely suggest that in any courteous, respectful and mature environment, allowing the House to have a say - its say - on this matter would be the right and, dare I say, the obvious course to take," he continued.

His comments came just moments after Mrs May sparred with Jeremy Corbyn over her announcement to the House.

She said: “It is clear that while there is broad support for many of the key aspects of the deal, on one issue - the Northern Ireland backstop - there remains widespread and deep concerns.

"As a result, if we went ahead and held the vote tomorrow the deal would be rejected by a significant margin.

“We will therefore defer the vote scheduled for tomorrow and not proceed to divide the House at this time.”


The announcement is humiliating for the Government, which until mid-morning today was insisting the vote would be going ahead.

Mrs May said she would tour EU nations ahead of the European Council summit at the end of this week to beg them to amend the backstop plan.

She also revealed that Cabinet would discuss the ramping up of no-deal Brexit preparations when it meets later this week.

Mr Corbyn said the Government had "lost control of events and is in complete disarray".

"This is a bad deal for Britain, a bad deal for our economy and a bad deal for our democracy. Our country deserves better than this," he fumed.

"This Prime Minister is trying to buy herself one last chance to save this deal. If she doesn’t take on board the fundamental changes required then she must make way for those who can."