Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plans were thrown into further turmoil yesterday when the speaker of parliament ruled that she could not put her divorce deal to a new vote unless it was re-submitted in fundamentally different form.
In comments that blindsided May’s office, Speaker John Bercow said the government could not bring forward proposals for a vote in parliament that were substantially the same as had already been defeated twice before, in January and last week.
The ruling put Britain on a knife edge — Brexiteers seeking a complete break from the European Union saw a “no-deal” exit as now more likely while others thought May might put off Brexit beyond the set March 29 departure date, if the EU approves.
According to precedents stretching back to 1604, parliamentary rules say that substantially similar proposals cannot be voted on in the House of Commons more than once during the same session of parliament.
Bercow said his ruling should not be considered his last word and the government could bring forward a new proposition that were not the same as those already voted upon.
The pound fell to its day’s low against the euro and the dollar on Bercow’s statement, before recovering when the government said negotiations on a deal were continuing with lawmakers from Northern Ireland, who prop up her minority government and have opposed her withdrawal accord so far.
“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 March 12, this would be entirely in order,” Bercow 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,” he said. The ruling was welcomed by eurosceptic lawmakers in May’s Conservative party who have rejected her deal because the speaker’s move seemed to increase the likelihood of Britain leaving the EU without a deal.
May’s withdrawal deal negotiated with the EU last year was seen by Brexiteers as leaving Britain too closely aligned to the EU while depriving it of voting rights in the bloc. “May I say how delighted I am that you have decided to follow precedent, which is something I am greatly in favour of,” said Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of eurosceptics in the House of Commons.
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