Bercow: I’ll stop PM closing Parliament
Speaker vows to thwart Johnson if he attempts to deliver no-deal Brexit by suspending Parliament
JOHN BERCOW said last night that he would refuse to let Boris Johnson take Britain out of the European Union by suspending Parliament. The Commons Speaker said he would fight any attempt to prorogue Parliament “with every bone in my body”.
He added that MPS could stop Britain leaving without a deal at the end of October, putting him on a collision course with Dominic Cummings, the Prime Minister’s chief strategist.
Mr Bercow dismissed suggestions that he would stand down in the short term as Speaker.
Mr Bercow’s first comments since Mr Johnson entered No10 last month set the scene for a constitutional battle this autumn when the Prime Minister could find himself trying to take the UK out of the EU without a deal against the wishes of MPS. As Prime Minister, Mr Johnson can prorogue Parliament, but it is not clear how Mr Bercow would attempt to stop him.
Mr Cummings has suggested that Mr Johnson could call a general election after Oct 31, even if he lost a no-confidence motion, allowing for a no-deal Brexit while Parliament is dissolved.
However, Mr Bercow told an audience in Edinburgh yesterday: “The one thing I feel strongly about is that the House of Commons must have its way.
“And if there is an attempt to circumvent, to bypass or – God forbid! – to close down Parliament; that is anathema to me and I will fight it with every bone in my body to stop that happening. We cannot have a situation in which Parliament is shut down – we are a democratic society. And Parliament will be heard and nobody is going to get away as far as I am concerned with stopping that happening.”
During the Tory leadership race in June, Mr Bercow told MPS it was “blindingly obvious” that Parliament was not going to be “evacuated from the centre stage of the decision-making process”. But that was before Mr Johnson entered Downing Street and the idea of proroguing Parliament became a meaningful prospect.
As the Edinburgh New Town event ended, an audience member shouted at Mr Bercow, “can Parliament stop a nodeal Brexit?” The Remain-supporting Speaker replied: “Yes.”
Mr Bercow angered ministers earlier this year when he broke with convention and allowed Tory Remainers to amend a Government motion to force votes on a series of Brexit options after Theresa May’s deal was voted down.
He hinted he would be prepared to do the same again, saying Erskine May, the Commons rule book, contained
precedents that could be changed or amended. He also rejected suggestions he could stand down this year, adding: “Not just yet. I have no plans to retire at the moment.”
Mr Bercow was speaking shortly after a judge agreed to fast-track a hearing on whether the Prime Minister can legally suspend Parliament to force through a no-deal exit after 70 Remainer MPS filed a petition at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. A hearing is set for Friday Sept 6.
MPS return from their summer break on Sept 3, and Labour could call a confidence vote any day that week.
Senior Government figures say the EU is waiting to see the outcome of any parliamentary bids to prevent no deal before it considers making amendments to the Withdrawal Agreement. Mr Johnson has refused to renegotiate unless the Irish backstop is removed.
Last night it emerged that Philip Hammond, the former chancellor, told Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, that “no deal would never happen” in a meeting after the first meaningful vote on the Withdrawal Agreement, which the Government lost by a historic 230 votes in January. A senior Cabinet source told The Daily Telegraph: “In telling the Irish no deal was not a possibility, he was completely undermining the Government’s negotiating position.”
My Hammond also said that a nodeal Brexit “would be a betrayal of the 2016 referendum result”, adding: “It must not happen.”
Writing in The Times, he said that there is neither a public nor parliamentary mandate for no deal and warns the Prime Minister that Parliament will “make its voice heard” to stop it happening. He added: “To pretend now that 2016 Leave voters voted for a hard no-deal Brexit is a travesty of the truth.”
In an article in The Daily Telegraph today, Amber Rudd, the Work and Pensions Secretary, insists Britain is “prepared for the global economic headwinds” after the latest job figures showed employment had grown to a record 32.8million.
It has been reported that Donald Trump plans to prioritise meeting Mr Johnson before any other European leaders to “send a signal to them” at the G7 summit in France next week. The US has said it is prepared to work immediately on sector-by-sector trade agreements after Britain leaves the EU.