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Johnson in bid to get Brexit legislation through Commons after speaker rules out new vote on deal

This is because of a parliamentary procedure where the same vote cannot take place more than once in the same parliamentary session.

Image: PA Wire/PA Images

Updated Oct 21st 2019, 8:38 PM

THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT has published the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in full this evening after Speaker John Bercow told the House of Commons that he would not allow a meaningful vote on it to go ahead earlier today.

Bercow said a vote on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal cannot be held, as a vote on the deal has already happened and that parliament “shouldn’t be bombarded with the same proposal over and over again”.

On Saturday, a vote was scheduled on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, but an amendment was tabled by former Conservative Oliver Letwin, which a majority of 322 MPs voted in favour of it.

Although the government chose not to contest the vote on the Brexit deal itself, technically a vote has already taken place on it – and as was ruled by Bercow earlier this year, the House of Commons cannot vote on the same issue twice in the same parliamentary session.

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The full Withdrawal Agreement Bill was published this evening here.

Addressing the House of Commons today, Bercow said that “there are two issues, one of substance, and the other of circumstances to consider”.

“Adjudication is a matter for the chair,” he said, adding that parliamentary approval was “recently sought for the Withdrawal Agreement, the Political Declaration, and the declaration concerning the operation of the democratic consent of Northern Ireland provision.”

It is clear that the motions are, in substance, the same.

“It is hard to see a significant change of circumstances,” Bercow said, adding that the change of circumstances could be argued as an application for an extension, but added that “this is not persuasive”.

In summary, today’s motion is in substance, the same as Saturday’s motion, and the House has decided the matter… My ruling is therefore that the motion will not be debated today as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so.

Explaining the rule in a sentence, Bercow said: “It is a necessary rule to ensure sensible use of the House’s time and proper respect for the decision it takes”.

The Letwin amendment also stated that a vote on the deal cannot pass until all associated Brexit-related legislation is also passed – which would also clash with any Meaningful Vote 5 held today.

It was expected that Bercow would make this decision, as it’s part of parliamentary procedure and judgement of the chair of the House of Commons. Despite this, he came under criticism from some MPs for his decision.

Bercow argued back to Sir Bernard Jenkin that he lost count of the times he “granted urgent questions and emergency debates from those who were then called a Eurosceptic and now called a Brexiteer disposition”. 

Labour MP Hilary Benn asked Stephen Barclay if it was true that “an exit summary declaration” would have to be submitted for goods being sent from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK, and asked “how does that square” with the statement that Northern Ireland would be within the UK’s customs territory. 

Barclay said that that requirement was “in line with international obligations”, but said that the operations of customs would be looked at again in the transition period. 

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