Another Brexit hiccup, as House Speaker John Bercow denies Boris Johnson a vote today


Number crunchers say Johnson may have the votes to narrowly get approval for his deal, though amendments may complicate its passage.

Citing parliamentary convention, Bercow said Parliament would not vote Monday on the deal Johnson negotiated with his European counterparts, because the government’s motion was “in substance the same” as the one lawmakers had considered during their “Super Saturday” session.

“The motion will not be debated today, as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so,” Bercow said.

He added: “The house should not be continually bombarded with the requirement to consider the same matter over and over and over again.”

On Saturday, when presented with Johnson’s Brexit deal, Parliament voted to withhold support until all the supporting legislation had passed. That vote triggered another law requiring Johnson to send a letter to the E.U. asking for a Brexit delay until Jan. 31.

Johnson, who earlier said he’d “rather die in a ditch” than ask for an extension, sent multiple letters to the E.U. on Saturday night. He sent one, unsigned, asking for an extension, and a second letter and a cover letter making it clear he was against it.

E.U. diplomats in Brussels told The Washington Post they will watch developments unfold in Britain before deciding on the delay request.

Monday’s setback wasn’t a “crippling problem for No. 10,” said Simon Usherwood, a politics professor at the University of Surrey, “But it underlines the depths of mistrust between the executive and the legislature at the moment.”

Attention now shifts to the so-called withdrawal agreement bill, the legislation needed to implement the Brexit deal into British domestic law.

On Tuesday, Parliament is expected to vote on whether to move the bill forward. It won’t be a line by line consideration — that comes later — but rather an overall vote on whether Parliament is happy to proceed to the next stages. Those numbers will be watched closely as a kind of thermometer reading for where things stand.


Usherwood said support at that initial stage “starts large, and, as people get into the weeds of it all, it gets smaller. So if tomorrow it passes by just 1 or 2 votes, it’s a sign of real difficulty ahead” for the government.

Opposition parties are preparing amendments that include proposals to keep Britain in the E.U. customs union or require a “confirmatory vote” on the deal — essentially a second Brexit referendum.

Johnson and his allies view such proposals as designed to thwart Brexit — delaying approval of Johnson’s deal or even make it unacceptable to the Conservative Party or to the E.U. The pro-Brexit tabloid newspapers have called the opposition party moves acts of “sabotage.”

Justine Greening, a former Conservative minister, said she’d back an amendment for a second referendum because things have changed since the 2016 vote when Britons opted by 52-48 percent to leave the E.U.

“We’re three and a half years on from Brexit and I think whatever happens, it feels like we are a very long way away from the lofty ideals of that campaign,” she said. 

Meanwhile on Monday, a Scottish court was considering whether Johnson complied with the law to seek a Brexit extension with his multiple letter writing and unsigned document.

David Pannick, a lawyer who represented campaigners who took Johnson to court over his suspension of Parliament, told the BBC on Monday he thought Johnson was “on the right side of the law — just about — on this occasion.”

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