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Friday, Sep 20, 2019

Obey the law, House of Commons speaker warns Boris Johnson

The law, as passed by parliament this week, is that the Johnson government must seek an extension to the Brexit date beyond October 31 if no agreement is reached by October 19.

world Updated: Sep 13, 2019 18:48 IST
The outgoing speaker of the House of Commons opened a new front against Prime Minister Boris Johnson
The outgoing speaker of the House of Commons opened a new front against Prime Minister Boris Johnson(AP)
         

The outgoing speaker of the House of Commons opened a new front against Prime Minister Boris Johnson by insisting that he would resort to creative ways to ensure that any form of Brexit can happen only if parliament agrees to it, and warned him to obey the law.

John Bercow, who was elected a Conservative MP but infuriated party prime ministers David Cameron and Theresa May, among others, after assuming the speaker’s chair by appearing to encourage opposition benches, said on Thursday night that Johnson can no way disobey the law.

The law, as passed by parliament this week, is that the Johnson government must seek an extension to the Brexit date beyond October 31 if no agreement is reached by October 19. Johnson is set on his course to leave the EU on the date with or without an agreement.

Johnson is due to meet Jean Claude-Juncker, president of the European Commission, in Luxembourg on Monday. Downing Street has claimed that negotiations are on for an agreement, but EU officials insist London has not yet come up with new proposals.

Bercow, who will step down as speaker on October 31, delivered a stinging message to Johnson in the speech, said: “The only form of Brexit which we will have, whenever that might be, will be a Brexit that the House of Commons has explicitly endorsed”.

“Surely, in 2019, in modern Britain, in a parliamentary democracy, we - parliamentarians, legislators - cannot in all conscience be conducting a debate as to whether adherence to the law is or isn’t required.”

Calling it “astonishing” that “anyone has even entertained the notion” of disobeying the law, he said if need be he would indulge in ‘additional procedural creativity’ in the House to prevent any prospect of misdemeanour on the part of the executive.

“One should no more refuse to request an extension of Article 50 because of what one might regard as the noble end of departing from the EU as soon as possible, than one could possibly excuse robbing a bank on the basis that the cash stolen would be donated to a charitable cause immediately afterwards.”

The Supreme Court of due to hear on Tuesday legal challenge to the Johnson government proroguing parliament earlier than scheduled, after the highest court in Scotland ruled against the government, but the high courts in England and Northern Ireland did not adjudicate on the issue on the ground that it is a matter of politics.

First Published: Sep 13, 2019 18:48 IST