UK: Bill ruling out no-deal Brexit becomes law


After speedy passage through parliament last week, an emergency bill to head off a no-deal Brexit on Oct. 31 gained Royal Assent on Monday, thus becoming law.

The law, known as the “Benn Bill” after Hilary Benn, the MP who proposed it, mandates the government to seek an extension to the Oct. 31 deadline to reach a deal with the EU on Brexit.

The Boris Johnson administration opposed the bill, claiming that it would limit the government in its negotiating position with the EU over getting a deal, and would mean that the U.K. would not leave the EU on Oct. 31 “come what may” – a key campaign pledge by Johnson.

There is growing speculation among MPs that the current government will not abide by the law, and will not ask for an extension from the EU, which itself may not be inclined to give one, as France indicated earlier that it may veto any extension.

Opposition parties are getting legal advice as to what they could do in the event the prime minister flouts the law, which states that he may be held in contempt of court if such a circumstance arose.

Speaker Bercow standing down

In a further turn of events, the speaker of the House, John Bercow, said he would be leaving his position by Oct. 31 or at an earlier date if parliament votes to go ahead with a snap general election. 

He said his decision came as he promised his family not to stand in the next elections.

During his tenure, Bercow, a colorful figure in parliament, was admired by all parties for his just and neutral stance but also often criticized by his own Conservative benches for allowing many anti-Brexit motions.

He won global fame for his distinctive exhortation for “Order!” in the chamber and became a barb for satire as televised Brexit debates were followed by millions of viewers across the world.

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