Constitutional crisis

‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again’. However, not if the Speaker of the House blocks you from doing so. Whilst we’ve become accustomed to the unexpected over the past year, not many would have calculated that John Bercow would intercede in show-stopping fashion this week to prevent Theresa May’s Parliamentary war of attrition. Bercow’s calculated ruling that May cannot put essentially the same deal back to Parliament changes the game significantly. There can now be no meaningful vote this week, as there is nothing to vote upon. By excluding May’s deal, the options going forward are now: (1) no-deal (already rejected by MPs, but remaining as the default position in the absence of an intervention), (2) a substantially new deal with the EU (already rejected in principle by the EU), (3) a new referendum and (4) a general election. Interestingly there has been support for Bercow’s position from both the pro-Remain camp (who see the opportunity for a new referendum as being closer in reach), and staunch Brexiteers, who sense the softer May alternative will prevail at the cost of a clean break. One man’s decision now puts the UK into what has been described by the Attorney General as a ‘constitutional crisis’. Some are suggesting that his action is the tipping point that will lead to an end to Brexit. However, May’s letter to Donald Tusk this evening, seeking a short extension to Article 50 (to 30 June) seemingly ignores these events and reaffirms her commitment to bringing her same deal to the House, putting her on a collision course with the Speaker. Tusk’s response suggests that he will acquiesce, but whether May can now pull something off by end of June remains in doubt.