The Speaker of the House of Commons breaks with precedent and the result is a huge defeat for the UK government!
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This afternoon the House of Commons voted by 308 votes to 297, to impose a three day deadline on the PM to come back to the House with a plan B, should her deal be rejected in the so-called meaningful vote next Tuesday evening.
This short deadline came about as a result of an amendment I talked about this morning, put forward by Tory MP and former Attorney General Dominic Grieve, to the government business motion that dictates how the actual debate on the Withdrawal Agreement would be conducted.
It is unheard of for the Speaker to allow such a government business motion to be amended in such a manner. But the current Speaker, John Bercow, allowed the amendment through to be put before MPs to vote on, which is unprecedented.
Not only that, there appear to be worries amongst MPs that the Speaker acted against the advice of his own clerks. He was constantly questioned via points of order on this issue, but maintained that he had properly 'consulted' with the right people but that he would not divulge what he was advised or whether it conflicted with his actions, nor he said would he publish any such advice.
Before the vote was taken the Speaker, looking very heated and red, faced a huge deluge of these points of order by Leave and government MPs calling his decision into question and also Remain MPs supporting his judgement and almost dancing in their seats with pleasure at the thought of further hemming the government in.
The Speaker seems to be relying on the fact that today's piece of business was an amendment to a previous un-amendable business motion, so the amendment could be amended so amending the original motion. If so it does appear to be an intellectual leap and as a precedent could, as many MPs pointed out, lead to serious ramifications for the future of parliamentary business.
Some people will of course be aware that Bercow, who as Speaker is meant to stay neutral, openly admitted in February 2017 to voting for Remain in the 2016 EU Referendum.
So there will be many in the House of Commons and further afield who believe that he has now broken cover and come down on his preferred Remain side by giving the mainly Remain minded MPs more scope in their fight against the democratic outcome of the 2016 referendum.
Firstly he has allowed a position where MPs can vote down May's deal in the knowledge that the clock cannot now be easily run down to no deal.
Secondly, it would then allow them time to try and work a debate and vote on a second EU referendum into the equation, which would mean asking the EU for an Article 50 extension, or unilaterally revoking the Article 50 letter, so totally reverse Brexit.
For the Speaker to break precedent with such a contentious motion at such a sensitive time, will almost certainly lead to even more people believing in the grand anti-Brexit establishment stitch-up.
Especially as a government spokesperson has said that "We are surprised the government amendment was selected; the advice we received was that it would not be in order".
Now, as far as I can see, this will also have the following results:
Firstly it will ensure that the PM's grand Brexit plan is floored next Tuesday, as coupled with last night's Finance Bill amendment, the chances of No Deal have diminished a little.
And secondly that the next five days of intense debate over the Withdrawal Agreement are now just wasted time, because we all now know where this is going.
This amendment together with another amendment put forward by Dominic Grieve that was voted through before Christmas means that, when Theresa May comes back three days after her deal is defeated with a new proposal, the House of Commons can debate and amend it as well as putting forward their own proposals.
This would allow, so the thinking goes, for parliament to 'take control' and set the new direction of travel with regard to the UK's future relationship with the EU.
And this I think you will agree, will inevitably lead to calls and votes on such things as second referendums, extending Article 50 and revoking Article 50 completely.
Tory Brexiteer MP Jacob Rees-Mogg has pointed out that the amendment only requires the government to table a motion, not debate it. But this may be covered by Grieve's previous amendment.
Bercow may have just thrown the Remainers in Parliament the lifeline they were looking for.
And I think I might need to buy shares in the companies that manufacture yellow vests.
So, please let us all know what you think by leaving a comment below.
Thank you for watching.
The vote that the Government has just lost does not affect Brexit. It merely requires a motion to be tabled not even debated.
— Jacob Rees-Mogg (@Jacob_Rees_Mogg) January 9, 2019