John Bercow blocks Boris Johnson's plans for Brexit vote

Ross McGuinness

John Bercow has rejected a Government bid to hold a “meaningful vote” on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal on Monday.

Mr Bercow said having a second vote two days after Mr Johnson pulled the previous vote would be “repetitive and disorderly”.

He told the Commons: “This matter was decided fewer than 49 hours ago. After more than three hours of debate the House voted by 322 to 306 for Sir Oliver Letwin’s amendment, which stated that ‘this House has considered the matter but withholds approval unless and until implementing legislation is passed’.

“Today’s circumstances are in substance the same as Saturday’s circumstances. My ruling is that the motion will not be debated today as it would be repetitive and disorderly do so.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson suffered a damaging defeat in the Commons at the weekend (Picture: Reuters)
Prime minister Boris Johnson suffered a damaging defeat in the Commons at the weekend (Picture: Reuters)

On Saturday, Mr Johnson decided to abandon plans for a meaningful vote when MPs backed a move forcing him to ask Brussels for a further delay.

The decision is a blow to the prime minister, who is also working to fend off Labour attempts to secure a customs union and a fresh referendum.

Government ‘has the votes’

Mr Johnson has repeatedly stated he will push Brexit through by 31 October.

But he can only do this once the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) has been passed by MPs. The WAB is the legally-binding treaty that allows the UK to leave the bloc.

The Government has brought the Bill before MPs, with a vote on its second reading on Tuesday.

Ministers insist they "have the numbers" to push the agreement through, and Michael Gove said the government plans to hit the October 31 deadline - but the parliamentary numbers appear to be on a tightrope.

Labour has made clear it will try to hijack the legislation by putting down amendments for a second Brexit referendum and a customs union with the EU.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer indicated Labour could back the bill if it was put to voters in a national poll against a Remain option.

Commons speaker John Bercow will decide if MPs get to vote on the prime minister's Brexit deal (Picture: Reuters)
Commons speaker John Bercow will decide if MPs get to vote on the prime minister's Brexit deal (Picture: Reuters)

Shadow solicitor general Nick Thomas-Symonds said Labour MPs will call for a confirmatory referendum, adding that he thought Parliament may vote in favour of Britain staying in a customs union with the bloc.

"A customs union is going to be one of the amendments that comes through and that is something that is going to have a very good chance of getting a majority," Mr Thomas-Symonds told BBC Radio 4's The Westminster Hour.

But, in a column for The Daily Telegraph, international trade secretary Liz Truss said making a customs union part of any pact "would take us back to square one and render the UK unable to strike our own bilateral trade agreements around the world".

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Despite being forced by Parliament to request a Brexit delay from Brussels after another embarrassing Commons defeat on Saturday, Mr Johnson and ministers are talking up their chances of rushing Brexit legislation through.

The move came amid reports that the EU was considering offering the UK a "flexible extension" to February, allowing it to leave whenever an agreement is secured.

Anti-Brexit protesters rally in central London on Saturday (Picture: Getty)
Anti-Brexit protesters rally in central London on Saturday (Picture: Getty)

Can a Halloween Brexit still happen?

Yes, but time is running out before the October 31 deadline as the European Parliament would also need to ratify the WAB, and it is unclear how soon MEPs will do that.

On Monday, the European Commission said the ratification process has been launched on the EU side.

But European Parliament’s chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, said last week MEPs will only start their work once the UK Parliament has passed a fully binding Brexit deal, and if that slips past the European plenary session this week, it may have to be picked up in the session that begins on November 13.

And without a meaningful vote in Parliament, support for the agreement has not yet been tested.

Though the PM has attracted support from a number of prominent Brexiteer Tories, including the European Research Group (ERG), the DUP is strongly opposed to the deal.

Johnson facing court date?

The Bercow ruling comes shortly after the highest court in Scotland announced it has postponed its decision on whether or not Mr Johnson broke the law by sending an unsigned letter to the EU asking for a Brexit extension.

At the hearing before the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Monday, it was accepted the prime minister had observed part of the legislation by sending the request by letter to the EU.

This is despite the fact he did not sign it and also sent a second letter - which he did put his name to - that said a delay would be a mistake.

A date for the next hearing of the court has not been set.

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