- John Bercow dismissed suggestions that he will stand down as speaker of the House of Commons this summer, arguing it was not “sensible to vacate the chair” while Brexit was unresolved.
- Bercow deeply unpopular among Brexiteers who say he has thwarted their attempts to leave the EU.
- In a speech in Washington, USA, Bercow suggested MPs will have the power to thwart a no-deal Brexit if it is pursued by the next prime minister.
LONDON – John Bercow, the speaker of the House of Commons, has dismissed reports he will step down this summer and warned the next Conservative leader that MPs will be able to block attempts to pursue a no-deal Brexit.
Bercow told the Guardian newspaper that he would not step down this summer, as had been widely expected, arguing it would not be “sensible to vacate the chair” before Brexit had been resolved.
His announcement will infuriate many Conservative MPs who believe he is biased in favour of Remain supporters.
And in a separate speech, Bercow fired an apparent warning shot to the next Conservative leader and prime minister that a majority of MPs would again move to block to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal, as they did in April.
Theresa May is set to leave Downing Street in July and be replaced by a new Conservative prime minister.
Many frontrunners for the leadership, including former Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab, have suggested the UK must leave the EU by October 31, with or without a Withdrawal Agreement.
‘For the birds’
However, speaking in Washington, USA, Bercow described the idea of Parliament being “evacuated from the centre stage of debate on Brexit” as “simply unimaginable,” and said MPs would move again to stop no-deal.
“The appetite of the House to have its say has recently been whetted and that appetite is not exhausted. Indeed, some would say it’s veracious,” Bercow said.
“The House will want to have its say and the idea the House won’t have its say is just for the birds.
“Parliament is a big player in this.”
EU leaders last month agreed to grant the UK another Article 50 extension, delaying Brexit until October 31.
While Bercow accepted it was “legally” the “default position” that the UK would leave on the EU that date if Parliament had not approved a deal, he said that such an outcome was not inevitable.
The idea that there is an inevitability of a no-deal Brexit would be quite a wrong suggestion.
“There is a difference between a legal default position and what the interplay of political forces in parliament will facilitate,” he said.
“It’s not for me to seek to claim to know what is the will of the people.
“My job is to stand up for the right of the House of Commons institutionally and the rights of individual MPs to express themselves to try and take policy forward as they see fit.
‘The idea that there is an inevitability of a no-deal Brexit would be quite a wrong suggestion,” he said.
Not stepping down
Bercow’s warning will infuriate the Brexit-supporting MPs who believe that he has consistently indicated a bias towards the Remain cause in his role as House of Commons speaker.
He had widely been expected to step down in July, but told the Guardian that he had “never said anything about going in July of this year.”
He added: “I do feel that now is a time in which momentous events are taking place and there are great issues to be resolved and in those circumstances, it doesn’t seem to me sensible to vacate the chair.”
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