Theresa May must change Brexit deal for third vote, says speaker

UK government likely to need EU approval on changes to deal for vote, says John Bercow

Speaker John Bercow has ruled out a third vote on the UK government's previously rejected Brexit deal if it remains "substantially the same". Video: ParliamentTV

 

Prime minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans were thrown into turmoil on Monday when the speaker of parliament said she could not put her divorce deal to a new vote unless it was re-presented in a substantially different form.

Speaker John Bercow said the government could not bring forward proposals for a vote that were substantially the same as had already been defeated twice before, in January and last week.

According to precedents stretching back to 1604, parliamentary rules say that substantially similar proposals cannot be presented for a vote more than once during the same session of parliament.

“This is my conclusion: if the government wishes to bring forward a new proposition that is neither the same, nor substantially the same as that disposed of by the house on the 12th of March, this would be entirely in order,” he said.

“What the government cannot legitimately do is to resubmit to the House [of Commons] the same proposition or substantially the same proposition as that of last week which was rejected by 149 votes,” Mr Bercow said.

“This ruling should not be regarded as my last word on the subject,” Mr  Bercow said. “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.”

‘Constitutional crisis’

Robert Buckland, the UK’s solicitor general, said the ruling by Mr Bercow would have “huge reverberations” for the Brexit process.

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“We are in a major constitutional crisis here,” he told BBC News. “There are ways around this – a prorogation of parliament and a new session. We are talking about hours to March 29th. Frankly we could have done without this.

“Now we have this ruling to deal with, it is clearly going to require a lot of very fast but very deep thought in the hours ahead.”

The British government is likely to need to win changes to its Brexit deal with the EU in order to be allowed to put it to a further vote in parliament.

Asked by an MP  whether further changes to the deal itself would be needed, Mr Bercow said, “in all likelihood, the answer ... is yes”, adding that a change in opinion would not constitute a change in the deal on offer.

“Fundamentally, for something to be different, it has to be by definition, fundamentally different. Not different in terms of wording, but different in terms of substance and this is in the context of a negotiation with others outside the United Kingdom, ” he said.

The pound fell to its day’s low against the euro and the dollar.

Earlier on Monday it had appeared that Mrs May was winning some support for her Brexit deal, but Mr Bercow’s ruling will leave the prime minister scrambling for options.

As it stands, Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29th. But parliament has voted for a delay and Mrs May is expected to seek an extension to that deadline when she meets EU leaders at a summit on Thursday.

To add to her problems, Mrs May appeared unlikely to reach agreement this week on her Brexit plans with the Democratic Unionists, whose support is vital if she is to get her EU departure deal through parliament.

Mrs May had earlier warned lawmakers that unless they approve her Brexit divorce pact, Britain’s exit from the EU could face a long delay which many Brexiteers fear would mean Britain may never leave.

After two and a half years of negotiations with the EU, the final outcome remains uncertain – with options including a long delay, exiting with Mrs May’s deal, a disorderly exit without a deal or even another EU membership referendum.

Mrs May’s blueprint, an attempt to retain close trading and security ties with the EU while leaving the bloc’s formal political structures, was defeated by 230 votes in parliament on January 15th, and by 149 votes on March 12th.– Reuters,

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