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Speaker deals new blow to PM's Brexit plan

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

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LONDON, England (AP) — Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plan to lead Britain out of the European Union (EU) at the end of this month hit another roadblock yesterday when the speaker of the House of Commons rejected his attempt to hold a new vote of lawmakers on his Brexit divorce deal.

The ruling by Speaker John Bercow plunged the tortuous Brexit process back into grimly familiar territory: grinding parliamentary warfare.

With just 10 days to go until the United Kingdon (UK) is due to leave the bloc on October 31, Johnson's Government was seeking a “straight up-and-down vote” on the agreement he struck last week with the 27 EU nations.

The request came just two days after lawmakers voted to delay approving the Brexit deal. Bercow refused to allow it because parliamentary rules generally bar the same measure from being considered a second time during the same session of parliament, unless something has changed.

Bercow — whose rulings in favour of backbench lawmakers have stymied Government plans more than once before — said the motion proposed by the Government was “in substance the same” as the one parliament dealt with on Saturday. He said it would be “repetitive and disorderly” to allow a new vote yesterday.

On Saturday — parliament's first weekend sitting since the 1982 Falklands War — lawmakers voted to make support for the Brexit deal conditional on passing the legislation to implement it.

Johnson's Conservative Government will now go to its Plan B: Get Parliament's backing for his Brexit blueprint by passing the legislation, known as the Withdrawal Agreement Bill. The Government was expected to publish the Bill yesterday and hopes to have it become law by October 31.

But it's unclear whether Prime Minister Johnson has either the time or the numbers to make that happen.

Passing a Bill usually takes weeks, but the Government wants to get this one done in 10 days. Johnson needs a majority in parliament to pass it, but his Conservatives hold just 288 of the 650 House of Common seats.

The process also gives lawmakers another chance to scrutinise — and possibly change— the legislation.

Opposition lawmakers plan to seek amendments that could substantially alter the Bill, for example by adding a requirement that the Brexit deal be put to voters in a new referendum. The Government says such an amendment would wreck its legislation and it will withdraw the Bill if it succeeds.


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