John Bercow has ruled that Theresa May is not allowed to ask MPs to vote on her Brexit deal a third time unless it has “substantially” changed.
In an unexpected and dramatic statement on Monday, the Commons Speaker appeared to sink the prime minister’s plan to ask MPs to vote on her deal multiple times until they approved it.
Bercow suggested that only a change to the text of the deal negotiated with the EU - something ruled out by Brussels - would be enough to satisfy him.
“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,” he said.
“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.”
Bercow said he made the decision after consulting Erskine May, the parliamentary procedural handbook.
He said the convention that a motion “which is the same in substance” may not be brought forward again “during that same session” dated back to April 2, 1604.
The Speaker did not tell Downing Street he intended to intervene. 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.”
MPs overwhelmingly rejected May’s deal last week. No.10 has spent the weekend attempting to convince Tory rebels to change their minds.
The government has also been holding talks with the DUP in the hope of persuading its confidence and supply partner to drop its opposition.
No.10 confirmed today May would not ask MPs to vote on the deal for a third time this week unless she was confident of victory.
But now Bercow has blocked the a vote from happening at all unless the government can convince him the deal has been changed.
The Speaker said it was acceptable for the government to have held the second vote on the deal as it was significantly different than what was put to the Commons the first time.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the Brexiteer European Research Group (ERG) of Tory MPs, suggested the government could get around Bercow’s ruling by ending the parliamentary session and starting a new one.
This would involve the Queen taking part in the state opening of parliament.