BER­COW’S SE­CRET ‘KILL BREXIT PLOT’ WITH TORY SABO­TEUR

As No 10 warns PM could fall on Wed­nes­day...

The Scottish Mail on Sunday - - Front Page - By Glen Owen and Harry Cole

COM­MONS Speaker John Ber­cow se­cretly met Tory rebel Do­minic Grieve just hours be­fore throw­ing out cen­turies of tra­di­tion to al­low the MP to scup­per Theresa May’s Brexit plans.

The pair spoke in Mr Ber­cow’s grace-and-favour Com­mons apart­ment the day be­fore the Speaker tore up the rule book to al­low the for­mer At­tor­ney Gen­eral to ta­ble an amend­ment to wrest con­trol of Brexit from the Prime Min­is­ter, The Mail on Sun­day can re­veal.

Mr Grieve, who was last night ac­cused of mount­ing a ‘stitch-up’ over the ex­tra­or­di­nary events, re­fused to re­veal what he had dis­cussed with Mr Ber­cow but in­sisted: ‘Speak­ers make up their own minds.’

His amend­ment led to the Prime Min­is­ter’s sec­ond ma­jor Com­mons set­back in 24 hours.

Now even No10 is warn­ing that the PM could be ousted as soon as Wed­nes­day if she suf­fers an­other heavy de­feat over her Brexit deal in this week’s crunch vote.

Down­ing Street said that a vote against her on Tues­day would plunge the coun­try into chaos – with a Gen­eral Elec­tion held within weeks, cost­ing many Tories their seats.

The blood-cur­dling ‘Ar­maged­don’ threats are part of last-ditch ef­forts to save the deal that Mrs May struck with Brus­sels.

Con­ser­va­tive Party chair­man Bran­don Lewis said Bri­tain was fac­ing ‘Brexit paral­y­sis’ if her plan was re­jected by MPs.

Rebel Tories have been warned that forc­ing a de­feat could lead to one of two ‘night­mare sce­nar­ios’. Ei­ther pro-Re­main Tory MPs join forces with Labour to com­pel the UK to stay in a cus­toms union with the EU; or Jeremy Cor­byn moves to bring down Mrs May with an im­me­di­ate vote of no con­fi­dence.

Ei­ther way, it could lead to a crush­ing Elec­tion de­feat within weeks un­less they fall into line, whips say.

There were even re­ports last night that Mr Ber­cow could al­low back­bench MPs to take full con­trol over Com­mons busi­ness and po­ten­tially put Brexit on hold by sus­pend­ing the Ar­ti­cle 50 reg­u­la­tions to pre­vent the UK leav­ing the EU on March 29.

Amid grow­ing alarm in No10, this news­pa­per can also re­veal:

Hopes are fad­ing for sig­nif­i­cant as­sur­ances from Brus­sels over the hated North­ern Ire­land back­stop, with ex­pected in­ter­ven­tions from EU Com­mis­sion pres­i­dent JeanClaude Juncker and EU Coun­cil pres­i­dent Don­ald Tusk to­mor­row likely to fall far short of the de­mands of hard­line Tory rebels;

Mr Grieve’s lo­cal party chair­man was bom­barded with de­mands for him to be re­placed as Bea­cons­field’s MP;

Mr Ber­cow faces the threat of ‘strike’ ac­tion by MPs, amid calls for him to be de­nied the peer­age cus­tom­ar­ily given to Speak­ers once they step down;

Cri­sis For­eign Of­fice meet­ings have con­cluded a de­layed Brexit is now the most likely out­come;

Jeremy Cor­byn’s most se­nior ad­vis­ers were at war over whether to call for a de­lay to Ar­ti­cle 50, as the Labour leader said he would set out his ‘vi­sion for Gov­ern­ment’ on Wed­nes­day;

For­mer Brexit Sec­re­taries Do­minic Raab and David Davis are plan­ning a joint ap­pear­ance on the day of the vote to de­mand that MPs re­ject it.

Mr Grieve was spot­ted leav­ing Mr Ber­cow’s Com­mons res­i­dence on Tues­day – the day be­fore he joined forces with Labour, the SNP and the Lib­eral Democrats to de­feat the Gov­ern­ment.

The vote means Mrs May will now be forced to set out her ‘Plan B’ within days if her Brexit deal is re­jected by the Com­mons, as widely ex­pected. Pro-Brexit MPs ac­cused Mr Ber­cow of over-rid­ing the ad­vice of his of­fi­cials and ig­nor­ing his duty to be im­par­tial.

Mr Grieve, who has de­scribed a No-Deal Brexit as ‘na­tional sui­cide’, ad­mit­ted vis­it­ing Mr Ber­cow on the eve of the drama but de­nied hav­ing ‘sub­orned’ the Speaker into ac­cept­ing his amend­ment.

A spokesman for Mr Ber­cow con­firmed he met Mr Grieve but de­clined to say what was dis­cussed, say­ing: ‘The Speaker meets MPs from both sides of the House and from all par­ties on all man­ner of things.

‘Meet­ings with par­lia­men­tar­i­ans are pri­vate and we do not com­ment on them.’ But she in­sisted that de­ci­sions on amend­ments were made ‘on the day of the busi­ness in ques­tion and re­leased or an­nounced that day’.

One pro-Brexit MP told The Mail on Sun­day last night: ‘This is ex­actly as ex­pected: a Re­mainer stitch-up by Ber­cow and Grieve.’

No10 has been try­ing to man­age ex­pec­ta­tions about Tues­day’s vote by claim­ing that any de­feat by fewer than 100 votes would be counted as a good re­sult.

The Mail on Sun­day un­der­stands Mr Juncker and Mr Tusk will each send a sep­a­rate let­ter de­signed to re­as­sure MPs over the back­stop to­mor­row.

But the cor­re­spon­dence is likely to fall far short of the de­mands of Tory Brexit rebels, who want the EU to drop the con­tin­gency mea­sure al­to­gether.

Mr Juncker’s let­ter will vow to ‘ex­pe­dite’ trade talks be­tween the EU and the UK to try avoid the con­tro­ver­sial ‘back­stop’ mea­sure ever be­ing trig­gered.

Mean­while, Mr Tusk will re­it­er­ate that the 27 other EU coun­tries all have a ‘firm de­ter­mi­na­tion’ to have a new re­la­tion­ship with Bri­tain in place by the end of 2020 to avoid the mea­sure kick­ing in.

He will add that if the deal is not ready by that point, all Euro­pean states will work to have it signed by 2021 at the lat­est – mean­ing the UK would only have to shadow EU trade and cus­toms rules for an ad­di­tional year.

On Tues­day, for­mer Brexit Sec­re­taries David Davis and Do­minic Raab will put aside weeks of snip­ing and lead­er­ship ri­valry to reaf­firm their op­po­si­tion to Mrs May’s deal in a joint rally in West­min­ster for the hard-Brexit Global Bri­tain Group.

‘Ar­maged­don’ threat if the PM is de­feated

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