Brexit: Theresa May to discuss next steps after Bercow ruling

Theresa May arrives at church in SonningImage copyright Reuters
Image caption With 10 days to go before Brexit, Theresa May will meet her cabinet on Tuesday

Prime Minister Theresa May will meet her cabinet later as she considers her next steps on Brexit, after her plans were thrown into doubt by the House of Commons Speaker, John Bercow.

Mrs May had been considering a third vote on her Brexit deal, which has already been rejected twice.

But in a surprise ruling on Monday, Mr Bercow ruled out another vote, unless substantial changes are made first.

One minister said the government was now looking at its options.

Nadhim Zahawi, Children and Families’ minister, 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.

She had been considering to ask MPs to vote on the deal again in the coming days.

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.

Now, talks are under way within government about what to do next and Mrs May will meet her cabinet on Tuesday.

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.

Image caption 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.”

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

Meanwhile, 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 a previously scheduled summit.

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