John Bercow says he will block third meaningful vote without 'substantial' changes to Brexit deal

Posted On: 
18th March 2019

John Bercow has warned Theresa May that he will block a third vote on her Brexit deal unless it is "substantially" different from the one defeated by MPs last week.

John Bercow cited Commons rules dating back centuries
Credit: 
PA Images

In a blow for the Prime Minister, the Commons Speaker cited rules dating back to 1604 which prevent the same proposition from being tabled more than once in the same parliamentary session.

Ministers had initially been expected to attempt another so-called "meaningful vote" on the agreement this week ahead of Theresa May's visit to the European Council on Thursday.

Boris Johnson urges Brexiteers to vote against Theresa May’s deal for third time

Philip Hammond: Third vote on Brexit deal is final chance to prevent long delay

Theresa May must ‘fall on her sword’ to win Brexit vote, senior aides say

However, time is running out for the Prime Minister to win over the DUP and Tory rebels before that deadline.

Making a surprise statement to the Commons, Mr Bercow warned the Government it could not "resubmit" the same motion that was defeated by 149 votes last week.

"It has been strongly rumoured that third and even fourth meaningful vote motions will be attempted, hence this statement which is designed to signal what would be orderly and what would not," he said in a statement to the House.

"This is my conclusion: If the Government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same nor substantially the same that disposed of by the House on 12 March, this would be entirely in order.

"What the Government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the House the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as that of last week which was rejected by 149 votes.

"This ruling should not be regarded as my last word on the subject, it is simply meant to indicate the test which the Government must meet in order for me to rule that a third meaningful vote can legitimately be held in this Parliamentary session."

The Speaker added that the conditions for a fresh vote would “in all likelihood” only be met where there was a “demonstrable change to the proposition” - suggesting that merely a change in the legal advice offered by Attorney General Geoffrey Cox would not be enough.

“For example simply a change in an opinion about something wouldn’t itself constitute a change I the offer,” he continued.

Mr Bercow later added: "Part of the role of Speaker is to speak truth to power - and no matter what I always will. I have never been pushed around and I'm not going to start now."

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said: "The Speaker did not forewarn us of the content of his statement or the fact that he was making one."