- Parliament President Bercow had surprisingly announced that Prime Minister May may not continue to bring the EU withdrawal agreement in the lower house again.
- Now there is a lot of debate about what exactly a "substantial change" would be, with which May could once again submit her deal to parliament.
- After all, there is now a roadmap for May to go to Brussels: she writes a letter to the EU asking for a postponement of the departure date.
One day after President John Bercow shocked the government, which was already on the brink of a nervous breakdown, Westminster's mood is torn to shreds. Bercow had surprisingly announced on Monday, after reading a handbook on the interpretation of the unwritten British constitution and house rules in Westminster, that Prime Minister Theresa May should not again bring the EU exit agreement in the lower house, but only a "substantially modified" contract. The deal had already failed twice in parliament, and May had last attempted to get a majority for a third attempt.
Since then rages a war of interpreters and interpretations. After reading the 19 th century official guide named after his author Erskine May, Bercow had cited precedents dating back to 1604. On page 397 of the document is the proposition that a law or amendment which has already been rejected may not be put to the vote again in the same parliamentary year.
Bercow relied on historical examples such as the financing of a kindergarten in 1864, the limitation of working time for railway workers of 1891 and women's rights of 1912. The work, which had been regularly updated, is nothing more than a historically developed code of conduct. However, since Britain does not have a written constitution, it is a relevant set of rules, fully in line with its title: "Parliamentary Practice – A Treatise on Privileges, Procedures and Traditions in Parliament".
That the powerful spokesman Erskine May may use and interpret is undisputed. Whether he is right in the matter, rather not. And so, since Bercov's intervention, there has been much debate as to what exactly a "substantial change" would be in which May could once again submit her deal to parliament. And whether Parliament could abolish the rule to which the speaker refers with a simple majority. And whether it applies not only to laws, but, as the text says, just for additions – which is why Bercow may have acted partisan, because he has approved applications, so-called Amendments, which closely resembled each other, in recent weeks very well.
And another argument is voiced aloud: The Tory government may be upset for so long that Bercow has thwarted the prime minister, but that is a very theoretical debate. Because up to Bercows explanation May had anyway no majority for the contract together. And she also made it clear that she would not vote again until she was sure that the number of yes votes would be enough.
In the cabinet it should have been quite loud
On Tuesday, the lament went down in Downing Street, the papers wrote perplexed or outraged by a constitutional crisis, but it also had to be found an answer. Finally, May's colleagues in Brussels are waiting for an announcement from Thursday. The Cabinet is, as much as it is clear, disagree on what the mitigation should look like. One minister told the BBC on the way to the Cabinet meeting that the situation felt like "the last days of Rome", and the Cabinet went out that there was an hour-and-a-half, sometimes loud argument. The prime minister, known for rarely making clear decisions, apparently had not commented on what she wanted until recently.
However, there is now a roadmap for May to go to Brussels: she is writing a letter to the EU asking for a postponement of the withdrawal date from 29th March to 30th June. But at the same time it wants to keep open the possibility that the withdrawal date will be postponed for up to two years – in case the government and parliament can not agree on a way by then.
All British media report in parallel to the action in the government headquarters and from the parliament. There are apparently new reflections on a vote of no confidence from Labor in the coming week. Apparently, the number of Tory MPs who vote or at least abstain from the opposition is increasing. Even extremely far-reaching options are openly discussed: Accordingly, the Queen could end the parliamentary year prematurely and enter the lower house shortly thereafter in a new session year. At least Erskine May would be taken into account.