December 9, 2019

Brexit: MPs’ vote on deal ruled out by Speaker John Bercow

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From BBC

Bercow: The motion will not be debated today

The Commons Speaker has refused a government request to hold a “yes” or “no” vote on its Brexit deal.

John Bercow said a motion on the deal had been brought before MPs on Saturday, and it would be “repetitive and disorderly” to debate it again.

Saturday’s sitting saw MPs vote to withhold approval of Boris Johnson’s deal until it has been passed into law.

The government said it was disappointed, but would go ahead with introducing the necessary legislation.

The prime minister’s official spokesman added: “The Speaker has yet again denied us a chance to deliver on the will of British people.”

The is due to leave the EU in 10 days, and while Mr Johnson and fellow EU leaders have agreed a new deal to allow that to happen, it cannot come into force until it is approved by both the and European parliaments.

The government has presented the law which would implement the Brexit deal to the Commons, and it will begin its parliamentary journey on Tuesday.

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Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal

Boris Johnson speaking as PM at the Conservative Party conference in 2019
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The government wanted to hold a “yes” or “no” vote – a so-called “meaningful vote” – on its deal on Saturday, but MPs instead chose to back an amendment tabled by former Tory Sir Oliver Letwin, which said that could not happen until all necessary Brexit legislation was passed.

That legislation, called the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), has been introduced and will then have to go through full parliamentary scrutiny in both the Commons and the Lords – something which usually takes weeks rather than days.

But Leader of the Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg announced plans to complete the Commons stages by the end of Thursday. He said the House would not sit on Friday.

The BBC’s political editor said the government hoped to push the WAB through by getting MPs to sit until midnight on Tuesday and Wednesday – an aggressive timetable they may well reject.

MPs will vote on a so-called programme motion – which effectively approves or rejects that timetable – on Tuesday.

Labour’s shadow Commons leader Valerie Vaz told MPs: “At every stage the government has been running scared of this House and democracy, and it’s now attempting to force through a flawed Brexit deal which sells out people’s jobs, rights and our communities.”

The SNP’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, called on the government “not to bulldoze” the bill through Parliament and give time for “full scrutiny”.

BBC Brussels correspondent Adam Fleming said the would only vote on the Brexit deal when it had reached a stage where it could not be modified any further at Westminster.

Officials believe that means it is virtually impossible for MEPs to approve it this week, but they are open to an extraordinary session of parliament next week, he added.

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Analysis box by Chris Mason, political correspondent

I know reporters like me love prattling on about “crunch points”. And I know there have been one or two instances of it being “crunch point postponed”.

But this really now is it for a government trying to deliver Boris Johnson’s proposed Brexit deal by 31 October.

The time frame is mega tight – passing a new law, through the Commons and Lords, by a week on Thursday.

Some want to crack on with it, some want to tweak it and some want to wreck it.

What happens in the next few days will determine whether the UK leaves the a week on Thursday and in what way.

And it is likely to shape when the next general election is.

And, perhaps, who wins it.

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No 10 was pushing for a second shot at a meaningful vote on Monday, but told the Commons he would not allow it, and had come to that decision on the basis of a parliamentary convention dating back to 1604.

He cited Parliament’s rulebook, Erskine May, which says a motion that is the same “in substance” as a previous one cannot be brought back during the course of a single parliamentary session.

The Speaker also said the circumstances around the motion had not changed, so his ruling was “necessary… to ensure the sensible use of the House’s time and proper respect for the decisions that it takes”.

Media captionBrexiteer MP calls Bercow ruling on deal vote “most unusual”

But Tory MP and Brexiteer Sir Bernard Jenkin appeared to accused Mr Bercow of bias, saying it was “remarkable” how often the Speaker “pleased one lot and not the other”.

“It is most unusual for a Speaker so often to prevent the government having a debate on the matters which the government wish put before the House,” he added.

Fellow Tory David TC Davies said: “The only consistency one can find in your rulings is that they always seem to favour one side of the argument and never the government.”

But Mr Bercow disagreed, adding: “The consistent thread is I try to do what I think is right by the House of Commons.”

The Letwin amendment also meant Mr Johnson was required to ask for an extension to the Brexit deadline, according to the terms of the Benn Act.

The PM sent the necessary letter to the EU but did not sign it, and sent a second letter saying he thought a delay was a mistake.

What is in the PM’s deal?

The deal ditches the backstop – the controversial “insurance policy” designed to prevent a return to physical checks on the Irish border.

Instead it will, in effect, draw a new customs border in the Irish Sea, because goods which could then travel onwards to Ireland will have to pay a duty tax.

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told a Lords committee Northern Irish businesses would also have to complete export declarations to send any goods to the UK.

The whole of the UK will leave the EU customs union, meaning it could strike trade deals with other countries in the future.

But many MPs, including the prime minister’s erstwhile allies the DUP, say treating Northern Ireland differently from the rest of the UK is unacceptable.

The Treasury Committee has asked the government for an updated analysis of how the new deal may affect the UK economy.

Responding on Monday, Chancellor Sajid Javid said the Treasury would “provide analysis at appropriate points”, but it would depend on the next set of negotiations with the EU about the future relationship.

He added: “[But] trust in democracy, and bringing an end to the division that has characterised this debate over the past three years, is something that cannot be measured solely through spreadsheets or impact assessments, important though they are.”

The committee’s interim chairman, Labour’s Catherine McKinnell, said “the dearth of relevant economic analysis” was “deeply concerning” and MPs were being expected to “vote blindly”.

What about the Withdrawal Agreement Bill?

The WAB will give legal effect to the withdrawal deal, as well as any agreed transition period, and fulfils requirements on the rights of EU citizens in the UK after Brexit.

Media captionClarke: UK needs “the right withdrawal agreement”

It will also allow ministers to make “divorce payments” to the EU foreseen under the current deal.

But MPs will be able to vote on amendments – changes or add-ons – to the bill.

Labour’s shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer has said his party will push for a UK-wide customs union with the EU and single market alignment, and back moves to try to put the deal to a referendum.

But the PM’s spokesman has reiterated the government’s opposition to both proposals.

If the government cannot get the bill through Parliament, the default legal position is for the UK to leave without a deal on 31 October, but that will change if the EU grants an extension.

How quickly does the government want the WAB to pass?

Monday – first reading – the bill will be introduced and its title read out, usually just a formality.

Tuesday – second reading – MPs’ first chance to debate the bill and vote for its continued passage. If passed at second reading, committee stage begins the same day.

Wednesday and Thursday – committee stage – where detailed examination of the bill takes place and specific amendments – on a fresh referendum, for example – can be tabled and voted on. The bill then moves on to report stage, which offers further opportunities for amendments before it moves to third reading. This is MPs’ final chance to debate the bill before voting on whether to approve it.

If approved, it then moves to the Lords to begin a similar scrutiny process.

For more on this story go to; https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-50128740

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