Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 November 2019

Brexit: Speaker rejects UK government request to hold vote on deal

Boris Johnson sent unsigned Brexit extension request to EU after MPs backed vote to delay approving deal

Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow respond to MPs on his decision on a meaningful vote at the House of Commons. EPA
Speaker of the House of Commons John Bercow respond to MPs on his decision on a meaningful vote at the House of Commons. EPA

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's attempt to put his Brexit deal to a parliamentary vote on Monday was rejected the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow.

Mr Bercow, arbiter of Parliament's lower chamber, said the vote the government wanted to hold was "in substance the same" as that held on Saturday and so would break parliamentary rules.

He said MPs allowing another vote on the deal "would be repetitive and disorderly".

Mr Bercow’s decision was met with criticism by Brexiters including Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin, who accused him of favouring pro-EU MPs.

"It is becoming remarkable how often you please one lot and not the other lot," Mr Jenkin said.

A spokesman for Mr Johnson said the prime minister was disappointed that the vote would not go ahead.

Mr Johnson first tried to win support for his deal at a rare Saturday sitting of Parliament but MPs voted to delay approving it.

That forced the prime minister to write to the EU asking for a three-month extension to the October 31 deadline.

But he did not sign the request, instead sending an additional signed letter that said an "extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners", and that he was firmly against a delay.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay said the EU had accepted the extension request and was considering it.

"The president of the European Council has accepted the request as valid and indicated he is considering it and consulting with member states," Mr Barclay said on Monday.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he “would not rule out a short technical extension” if needed to get the legislation approved.

Mr Johnson has insisted Brexit must take place by the Halloween deadline, with or without a divorce deal with Brussels.

Critics fear a no-deal Brexit could send the UK into a recession and many MPs have sought to block it.

Theresa May, the previous prime minister, stepped down this year after her Brexit deal was rejected by Parliament three times.

To the surprise of many, Mr Johnson managed to renegotiate an agreement with Brussels last week and now wants to put the deal to Parliament.

Demonstrators with placards and EU and Union flags gather in Parliament Square in central London. AFP
Demonstrators with placards and EU and Union flags gather in Parliament Square in central London. AFP

Before the Speaker's decision, the government said it was increasingly confident that it had the support of enough MPs for Mr Johnson’s withdrawal agreement.

Despite the government’s optimism, it is unclear whether he has the numbers to pass the deal.

The Speaker's decision means that the government will have to try to push on with the domestic legislation needed to turn the Brexit deal into law.

The government will on Tuesday try to get MPs to support the domestic legislation in the accompanying withdrawal agreement bill.

If the legislation is supported then Brexit will happen on October 31.

But opponents are plotting to wreck the deal with amendments that could see the UK stay in the EU’s Customs union and the deal put to the public in a referendum.

Main opposition party Labour is trying to create a cross-party alliance that would support the deal as long as it were amended to keep the UK in the Customs union.

Labour is looking to the Democratic Unionist Party for support, after the Northern Irish party voted against the government on Saturday.

The party, allies of the Conservatives, reject Mr Johnson’s deal because it would keep Northern Ireland tied to some EU Customs rules.

It appeared open to supporting an amendment to keep the UK in the EU Customs union but rejected another Labour-backed amendment that would see any deal put up for a confirmatory public vote.

An estimated one million people attended a protest on Saturday, calling for a second referendum.

Mr Johnson’s spokesman said that if the legislation were changed too far from the deal agreed to with Brussels, then its ratification would be placed into question.

Sterling reached its highest in more than five months at $1.3011 on Monday morning on hopes that the deal would pass, but slipped back to $1.2962 after the vote did not proceed.

Updated: October 22, 2019 02:22 AM

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