Bercow blocks PM tabling 'substantially the same' Brexit plan for a third time

PUBLISHED: 15:47 18 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 18 March 2019

John Bercow in the House of Commons. Photograph: PA Wire.

John Bercow in the House of Commons. Photograph: PA Wire.

PA Wire/PA Images

Speaker John Bercow has blocked the Theresa May from bringing back a third Meaningful Vote in the House of Commons - unless there are "substantial" changes.

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Bercow explained that the government could not keep bringing the same deal, or what is relatively similar, back to the House of Commons each time as it would not be “proper”.

He said he was sparked into action by a question asked by Labour MP Angela Eagle, who wanted to know if the government was allowed to keep bringing back the same motion again and again.

He said he consulted Erskine May, the parliamentary procedural handbook, and found that a motion “which is the same in substance” may not be brought forward again “during that same session”.

The speaker said the convention dated back to April 2, 1604, and said it had been confirmed again many times, including 1864, 1870, 1882, 1891 and 1912.

“Each time the speaker of the day ruled that a motion could not be brought back because it had already been decided in that same session of parliament,” he explained.

Bercow said the second meaningful vote “did not fall foul of the convention about matters having already been decided” because there were a number of legal changes to the deal, as well as the publication of three new documents.

But he said because it has been “strongly rumoured” the gvernment plans to attempt to schedule a third and possibly a fourth vote, he was prompted to make the statement “to signal what would be orderly and what would not”.

He told MPs: “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.

“What the government cannot legitimately do is resubmit to the House the same proposition - or substantially the same proposition - as that of last week, which was rejected by 149 votes.

“This ruling should not be regarded as my last word on the subject. It is simply meant to indicate the test which the government must meet in order for me to rule that a third meaningful vote can legitimately be held in this parliamentary session.”

There was no immediate response from Downing Street to the statement.

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The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “The speaker did not warn us of the contents of the statement or indeed the fact that he was making one.”

The Independent Group MP Anna Soubry said: “This is what happens when you don’t seek consensus and compromise from the beginning, but you lay down red lines and you doggedly stick to them with an act of stubbornness and brinkmanship that has brought us to this point.”

“This has to be unprecedented, the crisis that’s now upon the country, we’re due to leave the EU in 11 days and there is no plan, there is no certainty and this country is crying out for it, especially business.”

Best for Britain supporter David Lammy MP said that amending the deal to offer a People’s Vote would be considered a substantial change.

He said: “The speaker is correct to put Parliamentary sovereignty and the country’s interests first by blocking May’s attempts to blackmail MPs into a 3rd meaningful vote on her awful deal, after two historic defeats.

“If the PM wants us to vote on her deal again this week, she should add an amendment allowing for her deal to be put to the people, versus the option of remaining in the EU.

“Whatever happens, the prime minister must now negotiate a meaningful extension with the EU this week, so we can step back from the precipice and allow MPs to make a cool and rational decision in the country’s best interests.

“As this crisis has unfolded over the past two and a half years, Britain has changed its mind. It’s time to give the people the final say.”

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