Bercow prevention of vote makes longer Brexit delay likely

Application of ancient Westminster rule a ‘surprise’ which brings further uncertainty

House of Commons speaker John Bercow’s application of 1604 law  is “another instance of an internal Westminster issue that we cannot impact”. Photograph: Parliamentary Recording Unit/EPA

House of Commons speaker John Bercow’s application of 1604 law is “another instance of an internal Westminster issue that we cannot impact”. Photograph: Parliamentary Recording Unit/EPA

 

The intervention by House of Commons speaker John Bercow on Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement motion came as a “surprise”, the Tánaiste said tonight.

Speaking at an Irish Embassy St Patrick’s Day event in Brussels on Monday night, Simon Coveney said Mrs May can still ask for an extension to the Brexit process and the EU can still discuss the issue at a two-day meeting beginning on Thursday

“A number of us listening to Westminster today were somewhat surprised that a procedure of the House has been used to potentially prevent a meaningful vote happening before the summit. That’s a matter for Westminster to resolve,” he said.

“There was always the potential for the PM to come to an EU summit and seek a longer extension. She made it very clear last week that if she wasn’t able to have a meaningful vote that endorsed the withdrawal agreement she would request a longer extension of article 50.

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“So that’s what we can expect will happen now on Thursday and Friday.”

‘Significant intervention’

His comments were echoed by the Irish commissioner Phil Hogan and Irish MEP Mairead McGuinness, although she insisted the British prime minister may have difficulty providing the justification for an extension needed by EU leaders.

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s Brexit spokeswoman, Lisa Chambers, portrayed the speaker’s move as a “significant intervention”.

“It has increased the possibility of the UK seeking a longer extension of article 50 and the uncertainty that comes with that,” she said.

David Cullinane of Sinn Féin said that, in order for that to happen, the British would have to get agreement from the European Union on legal changes to the withdrawal agreement, and he said there was “no chance” of that happening.

Referring to Mr Bercow’s invocation of the rule that dates back to 1604, Mr Cullinane said: “A 400-year-old rule, very rarely if ever invoked, has potentially derailed her last chance to get the withdrawal agreement through.”

Fine Gael spokesman Senator Neale Richmond said it was an unexpected development. “It’s very interesting but it is another instance of an internal Westminster issue that we cannot impact. The withdrawal agreement cannot be reopened,” he said.

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