Speaking at a lecture in London this week, John Bercow said the “limitations of the rulebook” will not stop Parliament blocking the Prime Minister disobeying the law. Boris Johnson has said he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than ask the EU for another Brexit extension. But last week, MPs passed a bill which would force him to do just that, if a deal isn’t signed by October 19.
In his speech, Mr Bercow said: “Not obeying the law must surely be a non-starter. Period.”
He said if Mr Johnson broke the law, it would be a “terrible example to set to the rest of society”.
He went on: “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.”
Brexit latest: Speaking at a lecture in London, John Bercow promised to use “creativity”
He said it was “astonishing anyone has even entertained the notion”.
If the Government looks set to disobey the law, Mr Bercow said Parliament “would want to cut off such a possibility and do so forcefully”.
He added: “If that demands additional procedural creativity in order to come to pass, it is a racing certainty that this will happen, and that neither the limitations of the existing rule book nor the ticking of the clock will stop it doing so.”
Mr Bercow went on to compare breaking the law to deliver Brexit with robbing a bank.
He said: “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.”
Despite the law, Mr Johnson insisted on Thursday the UK “will be ready” to leave the EU by October 31, without a deal “if we have to”.
He said: “In reality we will certainly be ready for a no-deal Brexit if we have to do it and I stress again that’s not where we intend to end up.”
The Speaker’s warning came as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said a new withdrawal agreement remained uncertain despite discussions between Mr Johnson’s team and the EU.
He said: “I cannot tell you objectively whether contacts with the Government of Mr Johnson will be able to reach an agreement by mid-October.
“While we have previously reached an agreement, as far as we can speak, we have no reason to be optimistic.”
Responding to Mr Bercow’s comments, Tory Brexiter MP Sir Bernard Jenkin said the role of the Speaker had become “irretrievably politicised and radicalised”.
He accused Mr Bercow of launching a “personal attack” on the prime minister, insisting this would have been “unthinkable ten or fifteen years ago”.