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October 22, 2019

Bercow rejects govt bid for Brexit ‘meaningful vote’

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P
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October 22, 2019

LONDON: Commons Speaker John Bercow has rejected a government bid to hold a meaningful vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, saying it would be “repetitive and disorderly” to do so.

The Prime Minister had hoped to get the approval of MPs for his plans on Monday afternoon after he abandoned the vote on Saturday when the Commons backed a move forcing him to ask Brussels for a further Brexit delay.

But Bercow said that the circumstances and the substance of the motion were the same as Saturday’s and that it should not be debated on Monday because convention preventing the same matter being discussed twice.

Johnson will now seek to pass his deal without knowing whether enough MPs back his plan. The government was set to publish the Withdrawal Agreement Bill later on Monday, with the second reading debate due to take place on Tuesday (today).

Bercow told the Commons: “Today’s motion is in substance the same as Saturday’s motion, and the House has decided the matter. 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.”

But he came under fire from some Brexit-backing MPs, including Conservative Sir Bernard Jenkin, who said it was “becoming remarkable” how often Bercow pleases “one lot and not the other lot”.

Downing Street said the government was “disappointed” with the Speaker’s ruling, and would now go ahead with the introduction of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. “We are disappointed that the Speaker has yet again denied us the chance to deliver on the will of the British people,” the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said.

The Withdrawal Agreement Bill is the legally-binding treaty that must be passed for the UK to leave the EU, while the government must also win a meaningful vote. The requirement for the vote was put into law last year following a bid by former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay called on MPs to “respect the referendum” by backing the Bill, warning them: “This is the chance to leave the EU with a deal on October 31.”Ministers insist they could have sufficient support among MPs to get it passed so the UK can depart by the current October 31 deadline. But, with no Commons majority, Johnson faces a major battle to achieve his pledge to lead the country out of the bloc on that date.

Labour has denied it is trying to scupper the PM’s agreement, by planning to amend it to secure a customs union and a second referendum as the legislation passes through Parliament.

Number 10 is opposed to a customs union and second referendum, and warned that if the legislation in the Commons “steps too far away” from what has been agreed with the EU then it would “bring into question ratification”.

It came as Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator, said the Brexit Steering Group had agreed to “advise the Conference of Presidents to await the full ratification on the UK side” before the European Parliament votes on the deal.

Meanwhile, judges at Scotland’s highest civil court, who have been asked to rule on whether the PM lawfully complied with the Benn Act, delayed making a decision until it becomes clear to them it was “complied with in full”.

Under the Benn Act, which was passed by MPs trying to fend off a no-deal Brexit, Johnson was forced to send an unsigned letter to Brussels requesting an extension to the October 31 deadline because MPs did not support his deal on Saturday. But he signed a second letter saying a delay would be a mistake.

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