Here are five things we learned from another day of fiery Brexit debate in the House of Commons:
– If British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement deal is rejected by MPs in a crunch vote next Tuesday, the Government will have just three sitting days – rather than the previously outlined three weeks – to come back to Parliament with alternative proposals.
The British PM had not been expected to wait a full three weeks to unveil a so-called Plan B, but the decision by MPs gives Downing Street less time to try to win concessions from the EU in such a scenario.
The vote marked the second embarrassing Brexit defeat for Mrs May in the space of 24 hours.
– Opinion is divided over the significance of the move, with hardline Eurosceptic Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg saying it “does not affect Brexit” because “it merely requires a motion to be tabled, not even debated”.
However, pro-European MPs insist they will be able to table amendments to such a motion which would make clear where Parliament stands on issues such as a no-deal Brexit if they are voted on.
– Commons Speaker John Bercow remains a highly contentious figure. His decision to allow a vote on the amendment forcing the PM to set out her plans earlier than expected drew furious derision from a swathe of Tory MPs, some of whom directed cries of “pathetic” and “nonsense” at him.
Amid at times chaotic scenes in the Commons, prominent Brexiteer Crispin Blunt claimed there was now an “unshakeable conviction” among many that Mr Bercow was no longer a neutral referee. However, pro-European Tories and opposition MPs backed the Speaker’s decision.
With some MPs calling for the Speaker’s resignation because they claimed he had not followed parliamentary procedure, Mr Bercow defended his controversial move, stating: “If we were guided only by precedent manifestly nothing in our procedures would ever change.”
– Intense Tory criticism was driven home when one Tory MP accused Mr Bercow of having a “derogatory” anti-Brexit sticker on his car.
The Speaker said the vehicle in question belonged to his wife and she was entitled to her own views, stating: “That sticker is not mine and that’s the end of it.”
– Labour made it clear that if, as many expect, Mrs May’s Brexit deal is voted down next week, it is a matter of “when, not if” the party will table a motion of no confidence.
And the party’s shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said that extending Article 50, meaning the UK would stay in the EU beyond the scheduled exit date of March 29, “may well be inevitable now”.