Brexit Live Updates: Parliament Votes to Delay Britain’s E.U. Departure – The New York Times

But underlying that was the reality that a second referendum does not at the moment command a majority in Parliament, and its backers did not want it to go to a losing vote.

Still, some activists wish pro-European politicians would take a page from Mrs. May’s book about the value of repeat votes. Rather than holding off until the last moment, they say, politicians should vote for a second referendum again and again until it wins.

Among the curve balls thrown in the House of Commons on Wednesday was the assertion that the speaker, John Bercow, technically has the right to stop the government from bringing back the withdrawal agreement, rejected twice by large majorities, for a third vote.

The legal basis for this proposition lies deep within the Parliament’s rule book, the work of an assiduous 19th-century clerk named Erskine May. On Page 397, the rule book says that motions or amendments which are “the same, in substance, as a question which has been decided during a session may not be brought forward again during that same session.”

In the flurry of constitutional nerdiness that followed, it emerged that the most recent House of Commons clerk had thrown cold water on this idea back in October.

“That rule is not designed to obstruct the will of the House,” said the clerk, Sir David Natzler. In other words, Mr. Bercow — a consistent champion of the rights of backbenchers — would hardly obstruct a third vote if lawmakers really wanted the chance to vote on it.

“It would be ridiculous for him to apply a rule, a literal construction of a rule, if it frustrated what the House wants,” said Jack Simson Caird, a former House of Commons scholar who is a senior research fellow at the Bingham Center for the Rule of Law.


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