Uh-oh, one Brexit option shut down by speaker

Just yesterday the Guardian published a flow chart about the options available to prime minister Theresa May when, as was expected, she resubmitted the Brexit deal that was defeated by a margin of 149 votes for another parliamentary vote, presumably hoping that a sense of desperation due to the looming deadline of March 29 might persuade enough people to switch their votes in favor of it to avoid a no-deal Brexit.

But that hope was dashed when today the speaker John Bercow said that she could not bring a deal that was the same or not substantially different from the one that was heavily defeated earlier. This has sent shock waves through an already turbulent system.

Here is Bercow announcing his pre-emptive finding. (I just love listening to this guy speak!)

She cannot substantially change the deal without having discussions with the EU and it is unlikely that they will agree to major changes at all, let alone at such short notice.

So that means the answer to the first box in the above flowchart is ‘No’. It looks like the only option left is to buy more time with an extension. In theory, the EU could refuse to grant one, triggering a no-deal exit. But even if, given that the UK has had two years to deal with this problem and still cannot arrive at a deal that parliament can pass, they think that no purpose would be served by granting a short extension, they will likely grant it merely to avoid playing the role of the heavy.


  1. says

    John Bercow indicated that this was a ruling he’d need to make a few days ago.

    The other option (other than no deal) is to withdraw the UK’s notice of an intention to leave the EU. Which could happen if the EU refuse to give an extension to the article 50 negotiation time.

    More likely, I think, is a long extension (say 1 year) given on condition that the UK choses during that time which of the three possible options it actually wants: May’s deal, no deal or no brexit.

  2. Dunc says

    They could add some extra UK-only provisions to the Withdrawal Agreement, that wouldn’t require EU agreement… Or they could try getting around the Speaker’s ruling on a technicality, by dissolving and re-convening Parliament. It’s well off the constitutional map, but that’s the thing about not having a written constitution -- you can make up the rules as you go. At this point, I wouldn’t rule anything out.

  3. Matt G says

    US: white Christian nationalism + irrationality => Trump.

    UK: white Christian nationalism + irrationality => Brexit.

    And see what it hath wrought in both cases.

  4. deepak shetty says

    I dont see there being a way out of an extension followed by either a re-election on clear platforms or another referendum

    How buffoonish were the Stay side if they couldn’t win against people like this?

    Heh -- They probably ask the same question in the UK about Trump/Dubya.
    The main thing is you cant win easily against people who are
    a) WIlling to lie repeatedly
    b) Are shameless
    (See Farage, Nigel or Johnson, Boris)

  5. Holms says

    The main fault of the Stay campaign, to the limited extent that I have seen it at least, is that it was incredibly timid. Not only were their arguments for staying pretty damn tepid, but they never -- o almost never -- attempted to refute the blatant lies being shouted from the rooftops by the Leave campaign.

  6. KG says

    I heard it argued by a May supporter on BBC Radio 4 this morning that if she has a majority for her deal (which currently she doesn’t -- before Bercow’s ruling it already looked very unlikely she’d go for a third vote on the deal this week), then she’d have a majority for changing or suspending Commons’ standing orders (within which the Speaker has to operate). I’m not sure that’s true, because some MPS might take umbrage -- pressing for a vote on standing orders could be considered an intrusion by the government into the “rights of the House” -- and reject change or suspension for that reason. Another possibility is for May to bring her deal back next week with a few cosmetic twiddles, and dare Bercow to rule it out of order. If he does, a motion of no confidence in the Speaker could be tabled -- but it’s not clear whether he could rule that motion out of order, or whether he would have to resign even if it passed.

  7. file thirteen says

    All it means is that they take it away, polish it again, offer it up again. As MP Steve Double said (slightly paraphrased):

    “This is a turd of a deal, which has now been taken away and polished, and is now a polished turd. But it might be the best turd that we’ve got.”

    Ideally the EU would only grant an extension if the UK agreed to hold a referendum on the polished deal that comes out of it with remain as an option -- that, if it wasn’t for the fact that the government would let no-deal occur before agreeing to one. And they would love that because they would have an excuse to blame it on the EU. But I can dream.

  8. EigenSprocketUK says

    Point of order, esteemed Professor: the decision by the Speaker was merely to enforce existing procedure, and not to allow the government’s widely telegraphed move to have a third attempt to pass their vote this week, effectively identical to the first two attempts.
    In fact, last week’s second attempt was, in all meaningful respects, completely unchanged from the first attempt, itself shamelessly delayed from last years published timetable for cynical reasons. (They knew it wouldn’t pass.)
    So no-one, least of all the government and all the MPs in Parliament, has any right to be shocked. That it even got a cynical second chance was bizarre.
    This is the famous “Erskine May” rule that is now this week’s word of the month.
    Not even a knitting circle committee would allow someone, who failed to get a motion carried, to bring it up yet again, unchanged, and in identical circumstances.
    But it suits our MPs to pretend their shock, because they need someone to blame for their failings over the last three years.

  9. Dunc says

    Fun fact: Thomas Erskine May, the eponymous writer of the guide to the rules of Parliament, was the great-great grandfather of Philip May, husband of Theresa May.

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