Blow for Theresa May as John Bercow warns he could still block fresh vote on Brexit deal
Theresa May’s hopes of pushing her Brexit deal though the Commons have been dealt a fresh blow after John Bercow insisted he could still block it going to a vote.
The Speaker doubled down on his earlier ruling that ministers cannot attempt to present the Withdrawal Agreement to MPs again unless it is "substantially" different from when it was rejected by 149 votes earlier this month.
Downing Street is keen to bring the so-called "Meaningful Vote 3" to the Commons on Thursday or Friday this week - but only if they believe they can win it.
But in a surprise statement, Mr Bercow insisted that “a proposition which is the same or substantially the same may not be brought forward again during the same parliamentary session”.
The Speaker said the Prime Minister had “accepted this constraint” on Monday while addressing the Commons.
He added: “I understand the Government may be thinking of bringing 'Meaningful Vote 3' before the House either tomorrow or even on Friday if the House opts to sit that day.
“Therefore in order that there should be no misunderstanding I wish to make clear that I do expect the Government to meet the test of change.
“They should not seek to circumvent my ruling by means of tabling either a notwithstanding motion or a paving motion, the table office has been instructed that no such motions will be accepted.”
A Downing Street spokesman said: "It's clearly for the Speaker to determine the test he's set for himself."
Meanwhile Nikki da Costa, the former head of legislative affairs in Number 10, said Theresa May could be forced to take the highly unusual step of starting a new parliamentary session as a way of circumventing the Speaker's ruling.
That move, known as "prorogation", would see a new Queen's Speech hurriedly prepared setting out the Government's plans, followed by a new Meaningful Vote.
Mrs May's spokesman refused to be drawn on that speculation and said: "What the Prime Minister is determined to do is to secure the votes in order to allow us to pass the Meaningful Vote and leave the EU as quickly as possible."