Blow for Boris Johnson as Speaker John Bercow rules against Commons vote on Brexit deal

Posted On: 
21st October 2019

John Bercow has blocked Boris Johnson’s bid to stage a fresh meaningful vote on his Brexit deal.

John Bercow scuppered Boris Johnson's efforts to hold a meaningful vote on the PM's deal
Credit: 
PA

In a blow for the Prime Minister, the Speaker said it was against Commons rules to bring back effectively the same mption for a second time.

Mr Johnson had planned to hold a meaningful vote on Saturday on the withdrawal agreement he struck with Brussels last week.

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But that was scuppered when MPs voted in favour of an amendment in the name of Sir Oliver Letwin forcing the PM to seek a Brexit extension long enough for all the necessary legislation to be passed by Parliament.

According to convention, the Government cannot ask MPs the same question again unless there is a substantive change – a precedent previously used by Mr Bercow in thwarting Theresa May’s efforts for a third meaningful vote in March.

Announcing his decision in the Commons, Mr Bercow said MPs had raised "disquiet and consternation" over the Government's move - which he said would be "repetitive and disorderly".

He added: "It is clear that the motions are, in substance, the same. However, this matter was decided fewer than 49 hours ago. After more than three hours of debate, the House voted by 322 to 306 for Sir Oliver Letwin's amendment which stated that, and I quote: 'This House has considered the matter but witholds approval unless and until implementing legislation is passed."

And he added: "Today's circumstances are in substance the same as Saturday's circumstances. My ruling is therefore that the motion will not be debated today, as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so."

The Speaker cited the so-called 'same question' convention, which dates back to 1604, and said: "It is a necessary rule to ensure the sensible use of the House's time and proper respect for the decisions that it takes."

He was later criticised by Tory backbencher Sir Bernard Jenkin, who said it was “becoming remarkable how often you please one lot and not the other lot”.

He added: “Because this motion was never voted on, it ceased to exist when it was amended and I confess Mr Speaker surprise that the reason for [Sir Oliver Letwin’s] amendment being tabled failed to enter your head, because the reason was there was an anxiety that the law was not going to be complied with and the letter would not be sent, so the circumstances have changed.”

And the PM's official spokesman said: "We are disappointed that the Speaker has yet again denied us the chance to deliver on the will of the British people."

He said the Government will now introduce the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to the Commons on Monday in an attempt to push through legislation on Brexit before the Halloween deadline, with a crunch vote on its Second Reading due on Tuesday evening.

He added: “The public want Brexit done, the Government is determined to pass the PM’s new deal and get us out of the EU on October 31.”