John Bercow vows to stop Boris Johnson breaking the law on Brexit

Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire.

Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Speaker John Bercow has vowed to stop Boris Johnson to stop breaking the law surrounding a delay to no-deal Brexit.

Bercow said in a London speech that the so-called Benn Act enforcing the extension means the only possible Brexit outcome is one approved by parliament.

The former Tory warned that it is "astonishing" that anyone has entertained the idea that the PM could disobey the law, after Johnson said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask for a delay.

He compared refusing to ask for a delay in "what one might regard as the noble end" of Brexit to a bank robber insisting they would give their loot to charity.

If the government comes close to disobeying the act, the MP said that parliament "would want to cut off such a possibility and do so forcefully".

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"If that demands additional procedural creativity in order to come to pass, it is a racing certainty that this will happen, and that neither the limitations of the existing rule book nor the ticking of the clock will stop it doing so," he added.

Johnson would not have to ask for an extension to January 31 if MPs approved a deal or no deal under the Benn Act, which was pushed through parliament by opposition MPs and Tory rebels.

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Tory Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin accused the speaker of being "partisan" acting like a "majoritarian dictatorship".

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "The office of speaker has become irretrievably politicised and radicalised. It would have been unthinkable 10 or 15 years ago for the speaker of the House of Commons to launch a personal attack on the prime minister like this."

He added: "Maybe I should ask my unconstitutional affairs committee to look at the role of speaker because it's clearly not functioning in the way that it used to function until Mr Bercow arrived."

Historian Simon Schama tweeted: "Comical to hear Bernard Jenkins complaining about a 'majoritarian dictatorship' in Commons led by wicked speaker when majoritarian diktat (as warned by Mill) is precisely what has been government policy since referendum."

Will Hutton added: "Sir Bernard Jenkins is completely out of his depth. Democracy is about permanent discussion, deliberation and the construction of majorities. To describe a cross-party majority in the House of Commons as "majoritarian dictatorship " is a baby crying when he doesn't get his way."

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