The Speaker, John Bercow, delivers his ruling to MPs today
PM must ‘substantially’ alter agreement
Oliver Wright, Esther Webber
March 18 2019, 5:00pm, The Times
Theresa May’s hopes of forcing her Brexit deal through the Commons at the 11th hour were dealt a potentially fatal blow by the Speaker today.
In a ruling described by one government source as “unbelievable” John Bercow said that the prime minister could not bring her deal back to the Commons again unless it had been “substantially” altered.
His move, relying on a centuries-old parliamentary convention, drives a coach and horses through the government’s strategy of whittling down opposition to the withdrawal agreement through repeated votes.
Mrs May had been expected to put her deal to MPs again this week, before the European Council on Thursday, if she could win the last-minute backing of the Democratic Unionist Party. That now looks impossible and could potentially thwart an attempt to give MPs a final vote on the agreement ahead of Brexit day a week on Thursday.
Mr Bercow based his ruling on a parliamentary convention dating back to 1604 that states a question “may not be brought forward again during the same session” of parliament if it was “substantially” the same as a previous question.