10/21/2019 11:45 EDT

Brexit Battle Continues As U.K. House Speaker Blocks Vote On Johnson’s Deal

British MPs voted to amend the agreement to request an extension.

LONDON — U.K. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow has thwarted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s attempt to hold a meaningful vote on his Brexit divorce deal.

The prime minister had hoped to ask British MPs to vote Monday on the agreement he struck with the European Union (EU) last week, but the Speaker ruled it would break Commons rules for the government to ask MPs to vote on the same proposal twice.

In March, Bercow blocked Theresa May’s bid to hold a third meaningful vote on her deal for the same reason when she was prime minister. 

The Commons considered Johnson’s deal at the emergency sitting on Saturday and decided to amend it to force the prime minister to request an extension to Article 50, which triggered the withdrawal process. 

Bercow said the motion debated on Saturday was “in substance the same” as the one the government wanted MPs to vote on Monday.

MPs decided to withhold formal approval for Johnson’s deal until the legislation needed to write it into British law has passed.

The focus will now move to the government bringing its Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) before MPs, with a vote on its second reading due on Tuesday.

Johnson will be able to keep his promise of taking the U.K. out of the EU by Oct. 31 if he can pass the WAB by then. But he faces another hurdle as MPs could choose to block the government from fast-tracking the bill.

Opposition MPs are also expected to try and amend the legislation, including attempts to attach a provision that Johnson’s deal be subjected to a referendum and that the U.K. remain in a customs union with the EU.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay urged lawmakers to support the bill more than three years after British voters narrowly voted to leave the EU.

“This is the chance to leave the EU with a deal on Oct. 31,” he said. “If Parliament wants to respect the referendum, it must back the bill.”

U.K. House of Commons via AP/CP
U.K. House Speaker John Bercow gestures in the Commons in London on Monday after the British government's request for a meaningful vote on the new Brexit deal with the EU was rejected.

European Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva said Monday that European Council President Donald Tusk had acknowledged receiving the Brexit extension request and was now talking with the EU’s other 27 leaders about it.

Those 27 EU leaders are weary of the long-running Brexit saga but also want to avoid a no-deal British exit, which would damage economies on both sides of the Channel.

Germany’s economy minister, Peter Altmaier, suggested it could be a few days before the EU decided to respond to the Brexit delay request. He told Deutschlandfunk radio that he wouldn’t have a problem with an extension by “a few days or a few weeks” if that rules out a no-deal Brexit.

But French President Emmanuel Macron, who had a phone call with Johnson over the weekend, called for a quick clarification of the U.K.’s position. In a statement, he said a delay “would not be in any party’s interest.”

France’s junior minister for European affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, told French news broadcaster BFM TV there would have to be some reason for the delay, such as a parliamentary election in Britain or a new British referendum on Brexit.

With files from The Associated Press