Former Speaker Admits He ‘Facilitated’ Stopping Clean-Break Brexit

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Gina Miller and John Bercow attend the PinkNews Awards 2019 at The Church House on October 16, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images)
Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images

Former Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow has admitted that he had a “handmaiden role” in helping to stop a clean-break Brexit.

Speaking to Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Mr Bercow denied that he had “stopped” No Deal, but confirmed: “I facilitated colleagues who wanted legally to stop the No Deal Brexit.”

He added: “I think I had a handmaiden role if I can put it that way. But did I do the deed? I didn’t do the deed. I facilitated those who wanted to do the deed.”

Brexiteers had accused Mr Bercow of bias in the latter years of his decade-long tenure as Speaker after making questionable decisions that appeared to favour the plight of Remainer MPs trying to stop Brexit. In January, he was accused of ignoring parliamentary protocol by allowing MPs a vote on blocking No Deal in a manner reportedly contrary to the advice of Commons clerks.

Breaking the appearance of impartiality in 2017, he admitted he had voted Remain in the June 2016 referendum. Earlier this month, he then dropped any pretence of neutrality entirely and said — shortly after vacating his role — he thought the vote to leave the EU was “the biggest foreign policy mistake in the post-war period”.

The former speaker reiterated that assessment during his interview with Italian media, and added that the UK leaving the EU is not a certainty, saying: “No, I don’t think it’s inevitable.”

Conceding that he thinks Brexit “probably will happen” he, however, said: “Is it possible there could be another referendum? Yes, it is possible. It may not look that likely at the moment… if you ask me what I think about that, I think there is a compelling case for the public to be asked to give their final verdict.”

“I don’t see how having more democracy can be undemocratic,” he added.

Mr Bercow was also accused in 2018 of bullying members of staff, after in 2017 being accused of calling Brexiteer and then-Leader of the House of Commons Andrea Leadsom, a “stupid woman”. Last month, both the former Black Rod and Bercow’s former private secretary accused parliament of an “establishment stitch-up” to protect Bercow over allegations of bullying.

In his last day in his role, the anti-Trump speaker was accused of providing parliamentary cover for his friend and Labour MP Keith Vaz, who was suspended from the House of Commons following an inquiry that found the MP had expressed “apparent willingness to purchase controlled drugs for others to use” and for his association with male prostitutes. The Standards Committee investigation had found Vaz had “disregard for the law” and conducted himself in a manner “disrespectful of the House’s system of standards”. MPs voted to suspend Vaz for six months.

When Andrew Bridgen MP suggested that Bercow could have acted sooner on the issue, Bercow accused the Brexiteer Tory of being “nasty” and making “ad hominem” attacks. Bridgen fired back by saying the speaker had been “defending the indefensible” to the very end of his career because of his “very close friendship” with Mr Vaz.

The Brexiteer later told The Telegraph: “He’s a bully, and I will not be bullied by people like him. It will be a breath of fresh air to have a new Speaker that conducts themselves in an unbiased and professional way.”

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