Theresa May’s Brexit deal was pronounced “dead” last night after Commons Speaker John Bercow invoked a 400-year-old parliamentary rule to block a further vote.
Mr Bercow, in an unexpected statement in the Commons, said that he would not allow another vote on the prime minister’s Brexit deal if it remained “substantially the same”.
Citing a parliamentary convention from 1604, he told MPs that they could not be asked to vote on precisely the same subject twice in the same session.
He said: “What the Government cannot legitimately do is resubmit to the House the same proposition – or substantially the same proposition – as that of last week, which was rejected by 149 votes.
“This ruling should not be regarded as my last word on the subject. It is simply meant to indicate the test which the Government must meet in order for me to rule that a third meaningful vote can legitimately be held in this parliamentary session.”
The Speaker’s ruling throws a further obstacle in the way of Mrs May who has been scrambling to get a deal agreed by the scheduled date of Brexit on March 29.
The prime minister’s official spokesman said Mr Bercow “did not warn us of the contents of the statement or indeed the fact that he was making one”.
Solicitor General Robert Buckland said the Government was facing a “major constitutional crisis” and that Mr Bercow’s intervention would have “huge reverberations” for the Brexit process.
He suggested ministers may need to prorogue Parliament and call a new session in order to get round the ruling.
“There are ways around this. Frankly we could have done without this. Now we have this ruling to deal with, it is clearly going to require a lot of very fast but very deep thought in the hours ahead”, he said.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who today is due to hold talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about the prospect of a second referendum, said Mrs May’s deal was “dead”.
Speaking to the Press and Journal he said: “Theresa May’s deal is dead. We are in a crisis. Ultimately we have to reach the conclusion that we have to put this back to the people, that’s the right thing to do.”
And Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, who is also due to meet with Mr Corbyn today, said: “The positive thing about what he’s (Mr Bercow) done, he’s stopped her kicking the can down the road and she’s going to have to change the deal in a fundamental way or face the other alternatives including the key one which is taking this back to the people.”