Commons Speaker John Bercow secretly met Tory rebel Dominic Grieve just hours before throwing out centuries of tradition to allow the MP to scupper Theresa May’s Brexit plans.
The pair spoke in Mr Bercow’s grace-and-favour Commons apartment the day before the Speaker tore up the rule book to allow the former Attorney General to table an amendment to wrest control of Brexit from the Prime Minister, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Mr Grieve, who was last night accused of mounting a ‘stitch-up’ over the extraordinary events, refused to reveal what he had discussed with Mr Bercow but insisted: ‘Speakers make up their own minds.’
Commons Speaker John Bercow (pictured) secretly met Tory rebel Dominic Grieve just hours before allowing a vote of an amendment to the Brexit withdrawal bill, it has been revealed
Dominic Grieve’s amendment led to the Prime Minister’s second major Commons setback in 24 hours
His amendment led to the Prime Minister’s second major Commons setback in 24 hours.
Now even No 10 is warning that the Prime Minister could be ousted as soon as Wednesday if she suffers another heavy defeat over her Brexit deal in this week’s crunch vote.
Downing Street said that a vote against her on Tuesday would plunge the country into chaos – with a General Election held within weeks, costing many Tories their seats.
The blood-curdling ‘Armageddon’ threats are part of last-ditch efforts to save the deal Mrs May struck with Brussels.
Now even No 10 is warning that the Prime Minister (pictured) could be ousted as soon as Wednesday if she suffers another heavy defeat over her Brexit deal in this week’s crunch vote
Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said Britain was facing ‘Brexit paralysis’ if her plan was rejected by MPs.
Rebel Tories have been warned that forcing a defeat could lead to one of two ‘nightmare scenarios’. Either pro-Remain Tory MPs join forces with Labour to compel the UK to stay in a customs union with the EU; or Jeremy Corbyn moves to bring down Mrs May with an immediate vote of no confidence.
Either way, it could lead to a crushing General Election defeat within weeks unless they fall into line, whips say.
Mr Lewis told The Mail on Sunday that a ‘Brexit bunfight’ would ‘open up between those who want a second referendum, an extension of Article 50 or a Norway-plus deal’.
- Amid growing alarm in No 10, this newspaper can also reveal:
- Hopes are fading for significant assurances from Brussels over the hated Northern Ireland backstop, with expected interventions from EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and EU Council president Donald Tusk tomorrow likely to fall far short of the demands of hardline Tory rebels;
- Mr Grieve’s local party chairman was bombarded with demands for him to be replaced as Beaconsfield’s MP;
- Mr Bercow faces the threat of ‘strike’ action by MPs, amid calls for him to be denied the peerage customarily given to Speakers once they step down;
- Crisis Foreign Office meetings have concluded a delayed Brexit is now the most likely outcome;
- Jeremy Corbyn’s most senior advisers were at war over whether to call for a delay to Article 50, as the Labour leader said he would set out his ‘vision for Government’ on Wednesday’;
- Former Brexit Secretaries Dominic Raab and David Davis are planning a joint appearance on the day of the vote to demand that MPs reject it;
- Hi-de-Hi! star Su Pollard confronted Mrs May at a Downing Street drinks party over her Brexit strategy.
Mr Grieve was spotted leaving Mr Bercow’s Commons residence on Tuesday – the day before he joined forces with Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats to defeat the Government.
The vote means Mrs May will now be forced to set out her ‘Plan B’ within days if her Brexit deal is rejected by the Commons, as widely expected.
Pro-Brexit MPs accused Mr Bercow of overriding the advice of his officials and ignoring his duty to be impartial.
Mr Grieve, who has described a No-Deal Brexit as ‘national suicide’, admitted visiting Mr Bercow on the eve of the drama but denied having ‘suborned’ the Speaker into accepting his amendment.
A spokeswoman for Mr Bercow confirmed he met Mr Grieve but declined to say what was discussed, saying: ‘The Speaker meets MPs from both sides of the House and from all parties on all manner of things. Meetings with parliamentarians are private and we do not comment on them.’ But the spokeswoman insisted that decisions on amendments were made ‘on the day of the business in question and released or announced that day’.
One pro-Brexit MP told The Mail on Sunday last night: ‘This is exactly as expected: a Remainer stitch-up by Bercow and Grieve.’
No 10 has been trying to manage expectations about Tuesday’s vote by claiming that any defeat by fewer than 100 votes would be counted as a good result.
The Mail on Sunday understands Mr Juncker and Mr Tusk will each send a separate letter designed to reassure MPs over the backstop tomorrow.
But the correspondence is likely to fall far short of the demands of Tory Brexit rebels, who want the EU to drop the contingency measure altogether.
Mr Juncker’s letter will vow to ‘expedite’ trade talks between the EU and the UK to try avoid the controversial ‘backstop’ measure ever being triggered.
Meanwhile, Mr Tusk will reiterate that the 27 other EU countries all have a ‘firm determination’ to have a new relationship with Britain in place by the end of 2020 to avoid the measure kicking in.
He will add that if the deal is not ready by that point, all European states will work to have it signed by 2021 at the latest – meaning the UK would only have to shadow EU trade and customs rules for an additional year.
On Tuesday, former Brexit Secretaries David Davis and Dominic Raab will put aside weeks of sniping and leadership rivalry to reaffirm their opposition to Mrs May’s deal in a joint rally in Westminster for the hard-Brexit Global Britain Group.
On Tuesday: Grieve meets Bercow at his flat. Next day: Speaker accepts his killer vote
By Glen Owen for The Mail on Sunday
Seventeen Tory rebels, including Dominic Grieve (pictured), joined Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats to defeat the Government on the Grieve amendment by 308 votes to 297 on Wednesday
Our front page revelation that Dominic Grieve secretly met John Bercow just hours before the Speaker allowed his killer amendment will add to the sense among Brexiteers that Mr Bercow is on a personal mission to thwart the UK’s departure from the EU.
And it will increase the pressure on Beaconsfield MP Grieve from his local association to stand down – with one member telling this newspaper last night he would ‘hurl rotten tomatoes at him’ if he tried to run for election again.
Seventeen Tory rebels, including Mr Grieve, joined Labour, the SNP and the Liberal Democrats to defeat the Government on the Grieve amendment by 308 votes to 297 on Wednesday – Mrs May’s second Commons defeat in 24 hours.
It means the Prime Minister will be forced to table a motion setting out her Brexit ‘Plan B’ within three sitting days of the expected rejection of her deal on Tuesday.
Outraged pro-Brexit MPs who accused Mr Bercow of overriding the advice of his officials – and ignoring his duty to be impartial – will be infuriated by the appearance of ‘collusion’ between the two men.
Mr Grieve, who has described a No Deal Brexit as ‘national suicide’, last night admitted visiting Mr Bercow in his Commons apartment on the eve of the drama, but denied having ‘suborned’ the Speaker into accepting his amendment.
Under fire: Commons Speaker John Bercow (circled right) defending his controversial decision to call an amendment tabled by Tory MP Dominic Grieve (circled left)
The former Attorney General refused to say whether the two men had discussed how his controversial move would be handled in the Commons. He said: ‘He was aware of the motion but I don’t discuss private conversations.
‘I often speak to the Speaker about all sorts of things. We’re fellow Buckinghamshire MPs. But I am not in the business of suborning Speakers. They make up their own minds. I tabled my amendment without speaking to the Speaker.
‘How the Speaker decided to approach the amendment is a matter for him.’
Mr Grieve’s anti-Brexit campaigning has alienated many members in his local association.
One said last night that chairman Santokh Chhokar had been ‘bombarded’ with letters of complaint.
He added: ‘We don’t want him to stay as our MP. If he tries to stand again I would personally hurl rotten tomatoes at him.’
Asked if he had confidence in Mr Grieve, Mr Chhokar said all association matters were private.
Countdown to coup in Commons: How Grieve went about tabling his amendment
1. Tables motion
On Tuesday, Dominic Grieve tables his amendment which would force the PM to set out within three sitting days what she will do next if the meaningful vote doesn’t pass this week. His aim is to empower MPs to tell the Government what they want to happen over Brexit.
2. Meets speaker
Later that day, Mr Grieve visits Speaker John Bercow in his grace-and-favour Commons apartment.
3. Vote called
On Wednesday, Mr Bercow causes uproar by calling the amendment, despite aides telling him it goes against constitutional precedent.
Shortly after the vote, Mr Grieve was involved in a furious bust-up with Tory vice-chairman Chris Philp. After Mr Philp accused him of being ‘irresponsible’ for tabling the amendment, a shaken Mr Grieve protested: ‘I am not changing the law of the land, I am changing procedure.’
Mr Bercow’s decision to allow the amendment also caused an angry row with the Government’s Chief Whip Julian Smith.
Mr Smith confronted the Speaker in his chair and told him that his behaviour was ‘totally out of order’. He said: ‘You are overturning precedent, defying the advice of the Clerk of the House and trying to overturn the referendum result.’
Mr Bercow responded by saying that he would not be ‘bullied’ by Mr Smith.
Mr Grieve’s local opponents talk openly about him ‘retiring’ to his holiday home in Brittany.
The spacious modern house is situated five minutes outside the fishing village of Lanildut.
Neighbour Aude Guillermit said Mr Grieve and his family were there over the Christmas break. ‘I spoke to them and Dominic said that “times were difficult for Britain and the Conservative Party”. Dominic’s mother was French and he is a bilingual English-French speaker. He is equally at ease in either language.
‘When Dominic is here, he spends a lot of time canoeing in the estuary and at sea, and he is also a very keen diver.’
Another neighbour, Helene Jaouen, said: ‘He speaks French fluently without an accent. He could be taken for a Frenchman.’
Mr Grieve said he was unaware of any calls by local Beaconsfield Tory association members for him to be deselected over his actions last week and denied that he plans to stand down at the next Election.
A spokesman for Mr Bercow confirmed he met Mr Grieve on Tuesday. She declined to say what was discussed, adding: ‘Meetings with parliamentarians are private and we do not comment on them.’
But she insisted that decisions on amendments were made ‘on the day of the business in question and released or announced that day’.
Can we suggest you retire to this petite maison, Monsieur Grieve?
The Grieve family bolthole in France is a modern, purpose-built property at odds with its Breton surroundings, but it commands spectacular views across a local estuary.
The house, which was completed seven years ago, comprises four buildings joined at the centre, with a glass-fronted section looking out on to a spacious lawn. Neighbours say Mr Grieve is a keen gardener.
The Grieve family bolthole (pictured) in France is a modern, purpose-built property at odds with its Breton surroundings
Bercow may as well have had ‘B******* to Brexit’ pinned on his puff-up chest
By David Morris, Tory MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale
I felt my rights had been eroded, along with those of my constituents and fellow MPs, whatever their political colour, writes David Morris (pictured), Tory MP for Morecambe and Lunesdale
There are precious few occasions that can ever justify an MP challenging the Commons Speaker. But last week I sadly found myself doing just that. I still believe I was right to do so. ‘Publish it!’ I yelled at John Bercow.
I was challenging our Remain-voting Speaker to come clean on what advice he had received from the Commons Clerk before deciding to trash established procedure and allow a Brexit-defying vote to be taken.
I felt my rights had been eroded, along with those of my constituents and fellow MPs, whatever their political colour.
The Commons had yet to receive a written clarification from Mr Bercow, though he proclaimed he acted in our best interests by granting the amendment tabled by Dominic Grieve.
Mr Bercow was flouting time-honoured Commons precedents by creating a ‘one-off’ rule, abandoning constitutional convention and compromising his role as the impartial Speaker. He also ignored expert advice from Commons Clerk Sir David Natzler, who knows these rules intimately.
Why? Well, it appears that Mr Bercow wants to do everything he can to thwart the result of the referendum by enabling another humiliating defeat for the Government – without any warning.
Mr Bercow denies claims that his car displays a ‘B******s to Brexit’ sticker, saying the vehicle belongs to his wife. But it might as well be stuck firmly to his puffed-up chest on this occasion.
Speaker John Bercow speaking in the House of Commons on a suggested amendment to the Brexit withdrawal bill on Wednesday, January 9
The Speaker is there to serve the elected Commons without prejudice. He should not override House business and act as our master. It’s like a cricket umpire who, halfway through the game, invents a new method of dismissal to suit the losing side – especially if the batsman happens to be Theresa May.
The Prime Minister is trying to secure a workable Brexit agreement in the full spirit of what the people called for in the referendum. We all know the polarised emotions and debates, but we as a nation voted Leave and that must be honoured and delivered.
It is what Mrs May is committed to doing and now is the time for the Speaker to uphold the set procedures of the Commons and not perform a ‘one-off’ to suit himself. His actions have done little to bring the country together and will be catastrophic if they are repeated.
This is a man who shed his Right-wing principles as a Tory MP to win the post of Speaker in 2009 largely on the back of Labour votes.
Judging from the cheers from the Opposition benches last week, it appeared he was repaying those Labour votes.
By tradition, Speakers give up their party affiliation to serve the whole House. At this important time for the nation, he should not only be apolitical, but also bring the MPs together.
Mr Bercow indicated in 2009 that he would serve for nine years. His self-imposed time has expired. Most of my colleagues feel he has betrayed his historic office and that the Prime Minister should deny him the traditional peerage offered to retiring Speakers. He can hardly object to breaking precedent after lecturing us last week that if past practice was never overturned, nothing would ever change.
By those same standards of creating a ‘one-off’, if Mr Bercow should again seek to stand as MP for Buckingham, he should be denied the traditional sitting Speaker’s privilege of not facing candidates from the main parties.
Should Mr Bercow seek to bend the rules again this week to appear to serve his own or the Opposition’s agenda, I will have no hesitation in standing up and protesting in the strongest manner.
I swore to uphold the wishes of my community and the people of our nation; a repeat of the Speaker’s actions will be seen as violation of my constituents’ rights.
But this time I suspect many Tory colleagues will stand with me to uphold our precious democracy and honour the interests of the people who voted for Brexit.
Tory MPs threaten Bercow over his peerage after ‘abuse of authority’ at crucial Brexit debate
John Bercow faces the threat of a mass protest by Tory MPs if he repeats his ‘abuse of authority’ at this week’s crucial Brexit debate.
The Speaker was warned that more than 100 MPs would stand up to oppose him in a demonstration of ‘mass defiance’ of his authority.
Tory MPs also said that Mr Bercow should be denied the Speaker’s traditional peerage on retirement if he once again ‘bent’ time-honoured Commons rules.
In an article for this newspaper, Morecambe MP David Morris backed the peerage threat, saying: ‘Most of my colleagues now feel he has betrayed his historic office.’
Mr Bercow sparked extraordinary protests in the Commons last week when he was accused of shredding parliamentary procedure to allow a vote designed to tie Theresa May’s hands over Brexit. Amid furious scenes, the Speaker faced repeated accusations that he had ignored expert advice from the Commons Clerk, Sir David Natzler, to allow the vote to go ahead. The Government subsequent lost the vote.
Tory MPs are now threatening even stronger action if Mr Bercow repeats the tactics during this week’s vital final debates and vote on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal. Sources said more than 100 were ready to stand up ‘en masse’ to protest if Mr Bercow shows what they called ‘blatant bias’ against the Government.
The threat raises the prospect of the entire debate having to be suspended.
Mr Morris, who last week stood and challenged Mr Bercow to publish the advice of Commons clerks that he was overriding, said he was ready to take part in the protest.
The MP – a Remain voter who now supports Brexit – said: ‘Should the Speaker again seek to bend the rules, I will have no hesitation in once again standing and protesting.’
Mr Morris compared him to a ‘cricket umpire, who halfway through the game, invents a new method of dismissal to suit the losing side’.
Remain voter Mr Bercow has insisted that he had behaved entirely properly and had always been ‘scrupulously fair to Brexiteers and Remainers alike’.