Archive for the ‘Article 50’ Category

Constitutional chaos after third vote on Brexit deal blocked

Prime minister likely to have to request long article 50 extension after Bercow intervenes

Theresa May’s government has been plunged into constitutional chaos after the Speaker blocked the prime minister from asking MPs to vote on her Brexit deal for a third time unless it had fundamentally changed.

With 11 days to go until Britain is due to leave the EU, May was forced to pull her plans for another meaningful vote because John Bercow said she could not ask MPs to pass the same deal, after they rejected it twice by huge margins. EU officials, meanwhile, were considering offering her a new date for a delayed Brexit to resolve the crisis.

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DUP unlikely to back May’s Brexit deal before EU meeting

PM had hoped to win unionist party’s support before Thursday

The Democratic Unionist party is unlikely to strike an agreement with Theresa May’s government to support the current withdrawal deal before Thursday’s crunch meeting with EU leaders, sources said on Monday.

With 11 days before the UK is due to leave the EU, the prime minister has been trying to convince the pro-Brexit party’s 10 MPs, who prop up her minority government, to back the Brexit deal she has agreed with the European Union.

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Ziggy Bercow and the MPs from Mars rock old hit Erskine May | John Crace

The Speaker gets turned up to 11 for a Brexit deep cut from the Commons’ back catalogue

Days like these, Theresa May must wonder why she bothers. A question many of us have been asking for a couple of years. If she wasn’t in enough trouble with the hardliners of the European Research Group, Conservative remainers and a Democratic Unionist party hot on the scent of more cash, she now had her namesake on her back: Erskine May. Or at least the Speaker’s interpretation of the parliamentary rulebook.

Shortly after 3.30pm on what had hitherto promised to be a quiet afternoon in the Commons, John Bercow decided to give the government his own kicking. Like most things the Speaker does, it was delivered with much theatricality and self-importance but was none the less deadly for it. Having previously ruled that some precedents were made to be broken, he had concluded that the precedent of not allowing a government to put the same – or substantially the same – motion to the house as one that had previously been rejected should be upheld. So if the prime minister wanted to put her Brexit deal to a third meaningful vote, she was going to have to come up with something radically different.

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John Bercow’s ruling has breathed new life into the people’s vote | Polly Toynbee

The Speaker is right to seize back sovereignty for the Commons against the abuse of power by May and her chaotic government

Brexit fatigue and Brexit bullying are Theresa May’s instruments of torture to grind recalcitrant MPs into passing her destructive deal. No more, says the Speaker: this war of attrition must stop. Her deal must change and if she brings one back, it must be “fundamentally different”. How different? He can’t say until he sees what plan, if any, she will present.

Rightly John Bercow complains of time wasted, of running down the clock as she tries to crush MPs against the concrete wall she herself constructed. No 10 was not forewarned of the Speaker’s ruling. Oddly, the Brexiteers were sounding pleased, presuming her deal as it stands can’t pass. They hope that no-deal beckons – still the legal certainty unless parliament passes something else. But the champion of the house will guarantee that MPs get the chance to stop no-deal dead.

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Brexit delay shreds Theresa May’s strategy

LONDON — The world could look very different by the end of the week.

Despite fevered speculation in Westminster about the prospect of a third vote on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, the stark reality facing MPs over the next 48 hours is that if EU leaders agree later this week to extend Article 50, Brexit is automatically delayed — and March 29 disappears as a meaningful deadline.

The consequences of putting off Brexit day are potentially profound, yet barely acknowledged in Westminster, where many Brexiteers remain confident Britain will depart the EU with or without a deal on March 29, particularly after Monday’s bombshell ruling from House of Commons Speaker John Bercow curtailing the government’s scope to bring back the same deal for further votes.

However, if EU leaders agree to scrap March 29 as exit day — a date so significant that the Treasury commissioned commemorative coins on which it would be inscribed — the pressure to agree or reject the prime minister’s deal will all-but disappear. That matters because alternatives that have up until now looked impossible because there was not enough time — such as a general election, a move to force Theresa May out as prime minister or a substantial renegotiation of the Political Declaration based on new red lines — come back into the frame as credible options. Downing Street’s tactic of using the impending Brexit date as leverage with MPs disappears overnight.

“Once an extension is agreed, it is binding in international law,” explained one senior U.K. government official who said this fact was being largely overlooked in parliament. “Once you’ve got unanimous agreement, the date in Article 50 effectively changes from March 29 to whatever is agreed.”

The stance in Brussels is that if an extension to Article 50 is agreed, a new exit day is automatically created.

Brexiteers such as Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, are still urging the prime minister to attempt to renegotiate the contentious Irish backstop before bringing it back to parliament.

In Brussels, the position is clear. A so-called “room document” circulated among ambassadors at a meeting on Friday evening — and seen by POLITICO — confirmed that if an extension to Article 50 is agreed, a new exit day is automatically created. “The latter date will then become the cut-off date when the separation automatically happens,” the document states.

This will only change in two circumstances: “[Either] a withdrawal agreement has entered into force or unless the notification of the intention to withdraw has been revoked.”

In Westminster, the U.K. government will be obliged to tweak the EU (Withdrawal) Act to change the exit day, but this can be done by a minister using secondary legislation known as a Statutory Instrument. It remains a source of contention whether the U.K. needs to change its domestic law to delay Brexit at all, because it would continue to be bound by its international commitments regardless.

House of Commons speaker John Bercow | Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Bercow’s intervention, on the face of it, severely restricts the government’s room for maneuver for a third or forth meaningful vote. Bringing the deal back to the House of Commons this week now looks next to impossible. But if the summit does produce a decision to delay Brexit day, ministers could argue that even if the deal itself is unchanged, the proposition MPs are voting on would be subject to a “demonstrable change,” in the phraseology adopted by the speaker.

May is committed to requesting an extension following last week’s votes by MPs against no-deal and for a delay to Britain’s exit. But an extension is not a foregone conclusion. It requires the unanimous approval of EU27 leaders and the message from many senior EU figures has been that while they are open to extension, it must have a purpose.

They might refuse to grant an extension of Article 50 at this week’s summit unless the U.K. prime minister offers a clear reason for the delay — such as a second referendum, general election or reversal of British red lines on the customs union and single market.

However, it remains unclear how the European Council will thrash out an extension. The leaders of the 27 remaining member states will meet without the U.K. PM before dinner on Thursday. If they accept or reject her request, the process is simple. But should they make a counteroffer — either by attaching conditions or offering an extension of a different length — senior U.K. officials are unclear how London will formally accept or approve the proposal.

Theresa May arrives at the European Council for a summit with EU leaders in December 2018 | Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

The “room document” circulated to ambassadors last week, states that EU leaders would need evidence that the U.K. agrees to any proposal before they could sign it off. The request for an extension itself does not suffice, the document states.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders stuck to the EU line on his way into a Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels Monday morning. “We are not against an extension in Belgium, but the problem is to do what?” he said.

“We should be open for a longer extension if there is an argued reason for doing so,” Hans Dahlgren, the Swedish EU affairs minister, told the Local, “But just to have the process going on and on and on without any plan for what the options on the table would be, that’s not very attractive.”

The “room document” makes clear that any extension beyond July 1 would require the U.K. to elect MEPs to the European Parliament in the upcoming election.

One U.K. official said MPs have missed their chance to shape the government’s request for an extension by failing to put forward an amendment last week setting out the terms or length of an extension. “Parliament had its chance to vote on this last week,” said the official. “No one even proposed a date in terms of extension, so it’s up to the government.”

The Guardian view on Speaker Bercow: on parliament’s side | Editorial

The Commons equivalent of the double jeopardy rule is rightly invoked to impose sense on a government elevating a plebiscitary politics over a parliamentary one

This country has been in a political and constitutional quandary since the results of the Brexit referendum in June 2016. Today the crisis deepened in a dramatic and decisive way. The Commons Speaker John Bercow said he was minded not to allow the government to bring back its Brexit deal for a third meaningful vote because it breaks parliamentary convention. Mr Bercow has history – going back all the way to 1604 – on his side. Under the “same question, same session” rule MPs cannot be asked to decide a question they have already decided in the same session. It’s the parliamentary equivalent of the double jeopardy rule. “Decisions of the house matter. They have weight,” he said.

Theresa May has tried to use votes in parliament to grind her opponents down until they accepted the only Brexit that would work was hers. This strategy involved ignoring decisions of parliament. MPs voted to take the date of the UK leaving the European Union of 29 March 2019 out of law – but ministers did nothing. Parliament voted against a no-deal Brexit – but it remained as the default option in statute. It is time to stop the prime minister playing a game of chicken with the future of the country. The speaker, representing the collective voice of parliament, has a duty to uphold the legislature’s supremacy over the government and the judiciary. Mr Bercow is right to remind the government that it cannot go on ignoring the will of the House.

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EU could hand May lifeline with formal offer of new Brexit date

Move might convince Commons Speaker John Bercow that deal before MPs has changed

The EU is set to offer Theresa May a helping hand after her plan for a new meaningful vote was derailed, by formally agreeing on a new delayed Brexit date at this week’s summit and keeping it on offer until shortly before midnight on 29 March.

A change of the UK’s departure date in the draft withdrawal agreement – potentially from 29 March until three months later on 1 July – might convince the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, that the deal before parliament has changed, sources in Brussels suggested.

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