John Bercow calls out government attempts to cancel Brexit vote
Theresa May had pencilled in the vote on her Brexit deal to happen tomorrow
Commons speaker John Bercow has called out Theresa May’s attempt to cancel a meaningful vote on Brexit.
Addressing parliament after Theresa May delivered a statement on her intention to renegotiate Britain's EU withdrawal deal around the Irish backstop, Bercow said he had been advised the government has two paths in front of it if it wishes to defer the vote that had been planned for Tuesday.
Those are that it can either unilaterally end the debate by not moving the day’s business, which he described as “discourteous,” or a minister can adjourn the debate at its start tomorrow - giving the house a vote.
Bercow says the House should have a say on delaying the Brexit vote.
The speaker has accused the government of being "discourteous".
The prime minister has delayed tomorrow's Brexit vote, follow live updates here: https://t.co/b49S7BMXMw pic.twitter.com/KOQo2DkfT9
— Sky News (@SkyNews) December 10, 2018
Bercow then attempted to force a vote, challenging the government by adding: “Let’s see if they wish to rise to the occasion.”
Julian Smith, Theresa May’s chief whip who is responsible for ensuring government business is voted through the house, shook his head as the speaker spoke.
The House of Commons chamber was in solemn mood for the prime minister’s statement, but Bercow’s intervention brought additional gravitas. He said MPs were enraged by the attempt to pull the Brexit vote and that he had received the best advice on parliamentary process.
He confirmed May can withdraw the vote without consulting MPs, but urged her to put the decision to a vote so MPs can have input. He said: “In democratic terms [a vote would be] infinitely preferable.
“I politely suggest that in any courteous respectful and mature environment allowing the House to have a say, its say, on this matter would be the right and dare I say it the obvious course to take.
“Let us see if those who have assured this House, and the public, over and over and over again that this supremely important vote is going to take place tomorrow without fail, rise to the occasion.”
It is that constant reiteration that parliament would receive a meaningful vote which has provoked such fury from MPs.
Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, asked the prime minister when the vote would take place, and was told legislation allows for the decision to be delayed until January 21.
While DUP’s leader at Westminster, Nigel Dodds, told Theresa May: “Take heed of this House or the agreement will be voted down.”