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Brexit: Theresa May to press on with deal despite Bercow ruling

Theresa May arrives at church in Sonning

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Reuters

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With 10 days to go before Brexit, Theresa May will meet her cabinet on Tuesday

The government says it is pressing ahead with Theresa May’s Brexit deal despite Commons Speaker John Bercow throwing the process into doubt.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay suggested a vote could take place next week – after Mrs May has sought a delay to Brexit from the EU.

Mr Bercow has ruled that the PM can not bring her deal back for a third vote without “substantial changes”.

Mr Barclay said “serious consideration” was being given to his intervention.

The Brexit secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme it was important to “respect the referee” and abide by his decisions.

But he added that Mr Bercow himself had said, in the past, that if Parliament was guided only by precedent then “nothing ever would change”.

Mr Bercow cited a ruling from 1604 to justify his decision to block a third vote, after the deal was rejected for a second time last week, by 149 votes.

Mr Barclay suggested that MPs would “find a way” to get another vote, if the government manages to persuade enough of them, including the 10 Democratic Unionists, to change their mind and back the deal.

He suggested it would also depend on Theresa May getting “clarity” from the EU on “terms of an extension” to Brexit.

George Ciamba, the Romanian minister who will chair today’s meeting of European affairs ministers in Brussels, said there was “less clarity today than yesterday” on Brexit.

He said an extension of Article 50, the legal process taking the UK out of the EU was matter for leaders and that Thursday’s European Council meeting was the proper venue for the decision.

What are the options?

Children and Families’ minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Newsnight that one of the options was for MPs to vote on whether to ignore the 400-year-old convention that Mr Bercow had cited in making his ruling.

Brexit Minister Kwasi Kwarteng earlier told the Commons the government was now hoping to ask the EU for a delay to Brexit.

He said the length of the delay would depend on whether Mrs May’s Brexit deal is approved. If the deal is agreed, the delay could be short, but if not it could be longer.

It is written into law that the UK is due to leave the EU at the end of next week – 29 March. The government can ask the EU to delay Brexit but all 27 EU leaders would need to give their permission.

Mrs May has been trying to get her Brexit withdrawal agreement – the “divorce” deal, which she has already agreed with the EU – signed off by MPs in time, but they have voted against it twice.

But without giving any warning, Mr Bercow made a statement on Monday saying this was not possible. He cited a parliamentary rule dating from 1604 which states that a defeated motion could not be brought back in the same form during the course of a parliamentary session.

EU ministers are meeting in Brussels to prepare for this week’s summit of EU leaders who are expected to discuss whether to grant an extension to the Brexit process.

In his Newsnight interview, Mr Zahawi, who is a Brexiteer, was asked whether the government was going to bypass Mr Bercow’s ruling. He said: “Let’s see, we have to look at all our options.

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Education minister Mr Zahawi said he does not support a long extension to Brexit

“If there’s a majority in Parliament, I would prefer that we can set aside this convention and have a vote and go and take a short extension and get on with Brexit – which I think is where my prime minister’s at.”

Mr Zahawi added that the Speaker had “made it now much more difficult to have the short extension” and a meaningful vote.

“Therefore the longer extension is now clearly on the table. I don’t believe that’s a good thing”.

“What Speaker Bercow has done has made it much more likely that we don’t deliver Brexit.”

Media captionSpeaker John Bercow rejects further Brexit votes without changes to motion

Nikki da Costa, former director of legal affairs at Downing Street, told BBC Radio 4’s Today that Mr Bercow had taken the “hardest possible ruling” on the Parliamentary convention regarding defeated motions but if Mrs May’s deal was starting to win acceptance it would be possible for her to get MPs to overturn the speaker’s decision.

She added: “I think the PM and the government can still have a third meaningful vote… but it will be extraordinarily difficult to have a fourth meaningful vote so I think MPs really have to think very carefully if that vote does come back.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is due to meet the leaders of the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and Green Party for talks on Brexit.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable, Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas have all released a joint statement calling for another referendum.

“The best and most democratic way forward is to put the decision back to the people in a new vote – with the option to Remain on the ballot paper,” they said.

Mr Corbyn will also meet members of the group of MPs calling for a so-called Norway Plus style of future relationship with the EU.

And European Council president Donald Tusk will hold talks with Irish premier Leo Varadkar in Dublin.

Mrs May is due to meet EU leaders in Brussels on Thursday at the previously scheduled summit.

Brexit: Theresa May to press on with deal despite Bercow ruling}

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