British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was dealt another blow on Monday when Speaker of the House John Bercow refused to allow him to present his new Brexit agreement for a second floor vote, citing parliamentary rules that prevent members from bringing the same legislation for a vote multiple times.
Johnson was able to broker a deal with representatives of the EU on Thursday for the UK to withdraw from the EU at the end of October. In a special session on Saturday, the Prime Minister sought for an immediate yes or no vote from the House of Commons on the deal. Instead of voting on the deal, the House passed an amendment to the agreement requiring legislation to implement an EU withdrawal be passed before the agreement itself can be brought to a vote. In protest, Johnson cancelled the floor vote for the deal.
Undeterred by the opposition, Johnson sought on Monday morning to once again introduce the Brexit deal for a yes or no floor vote. Speaker of the House John Bercow denied this request based on the longstanding “same question convention.” Bercow said in a statement on the floor of Parliament:
Today’s motion is in substance the same as Saturday’s motion and the House has decided the matter. Today’s circumstances are in substance the same as Saturday’s circumstances. My ruling is therefore that the motion will not be debated today as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so.
According to Bercow, the House of Commons has maintained a prohibition on introducing identical bills for multiple floor votes since at least the early 17th century. To permit Johnson to bring the deal for a second floor vote in three days would be contrary to this convention. Bercow stated that Johnson would be permitted to send the Brexit deal through normal parliamentary channels, including committee review, in lieu of the second floor vote that the Prime Minister desired. Johnson immediately scheduled a second reading of the bill for Tuesday, the step before it is sent to committee. Johnson stated that he hopes to have the bill through the process by the end of the week, an extremely aggressive timetable that opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn called “an abuse of Parliament and a blatant attempt to dodge accountability, to dodge scrutiny, to dodge any proper debate.”
Without an agreement approved by Parliament by October 19, Johnson was required by the Benn Act to request a deadline extension. Johnson refused to sign the deadline extension request sent to EU President Donald Tusk and instead included a personal letter to Tusk decrying the “corrosive influence” of Parliament on Brexit negotiations and stating that he felt that “a further extension would damage the interests of the UK and our EU partners.” Tusk did not respond substantively to either the deadline extension request nor Johnson’s letter, stating in a speech at the European Parliament that the EU was “consulting the leaders on how to react, and will decide in the coming days.”