Remainer Speaker Bends Rules so MPs Can Vote to Disrupt No Deal Brexit

Speaker for the House of Commons John Bercow addresses invited guests during a visit by Indian president Pratibha Patil to the Palace of Westminster to meet with the Speakers of the House of Lords and the House of Commons in central London, on October 29, 2009.
Leon Neal/AFP/Getty

Members of Parliament have challenged Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow for allowing a vote on an amendment intended to derail a “No Deal” Brexit, in what may be construed as a breach of Commons precedent.

It is widely expected that Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement will be voted down next week, which would leave No Deal as the default Brexit option. Current rules dictate that Mrs May would have to make a statement within 21 days on the Government’s plan of action, with a Commons vote in the following seven days.

However, Mr Bercow accepted a business motion amendment from Dominic Grieve, ad hoc leader of the anti-Brexit rebels within the Tory Party, calling for the Government to go back to Parliament within just three days of the “meaningful vote” — to give MPs an opportunity to try and block a No Deal Brexit, by all accounts.

Combining with the left-wing opposition parties, the Tory europhiles were able to pass the amendment in the teeth of Government and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) resistance, by 308 to 297.

A Government source speaking to The Times said Bercow allowed the amendment despite Commons clerks, whose job it is to advise the Speaker on Parliamentary procedure, telling him that amendments should not have been allowed.

Other sources expressed their shock, telling the newspaper of record that they believed the motion was “bomb proof,” with even those in favour of the Grieve amendment sure it would never be accepted.

Mr Grieve had tabled the amendment Tuesday night after pro-EU MPs had passed an amendment to the Finance Bill designed to prohibit spending on No Deal preparations without authorisation from Parliament — which is dominated by Remainers and largely opposed to No Deal.

Following Prime Minister’s Questions, the Speaker defended his decision, saying: “It is the long, established practice of this House that the Speaker in this chair makes judgements upon the selection of amendments and those judgements are not questioned by members of the House.

“I am clear in my mind that I have taken the right course.”

Several MPs challenged the Speaker with points of order, with Tory Brexiteer Peter Bone asking for an explanation as to why, when he had attempted to propose an amendment to the same motion, he had been refused by the Table Office, saying “I was told it would be totally out of order and there would be no other amendments filed.”

Stating that it was the first he had heard of the matter and he was not sure whether his attempt came before or after Mr Grieve’s, the Speaker said: “In my understanding the motion is amendable. I’m clear in my mind about that,” adding that while he acknowledges Mr Bone may be “disappointed,” he was “doubtful” he could still table his own amendment — as indeed he did not.

A former director of legislative affairs at Number 10, Nikki da Costa, said: “More than anything this is not just overturning something the House accepted in a business motion, it is overturning the EU Withdrawal Agreement and procedure voted on and approved in both Houses with much debate and scrutiny, and indeed which Grieve accepted on floor of the House.”

Andrea Leadsom, a Cabinet Brexiteer and Leader of the House of Commons, asked Mr Bercow to release the advice he received from the Clerk of the House of Commons on whether the amendment should have been accepted, but he declined to do so.

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