Peterborough MP Shailesh Vara claims actions of ‘biased’ Speaker John Bercow forced him to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal

John Bercow
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Shailesh Vara has claimed the “biased” Speaker of the House of Commons has forced him to back Theresa May’s Brexit deal as the alternative is the UK never leaving the EU.

The Conservative MP for North West Cambridgeshire accused John Bercow of “making up the rules as we go along” to try and prevent Brexit from taking place.

Mr Vara has been a vocal critic of the Prime Minister’s deal and resigned from government to twice vote against it. However, last Friday he voted for it “with reluctance”, claiming that it was the “least bad choice to deliver on the referendum result”.

Explaining his decision to the Peterborough Telegraph, the former Northern Ireland minister said Mr Bercow had thrown away parliamentary precedence by allowing the takeover of the timetable by MPs who will block Brexit from taking place.

He also accused the Speaker of bias in favour of Remain MPs, in particular over last night’s indicative votes on alternative Brexit options where Mr Bercow only accepted motions which favoured a ‘soft’ Brexit.

Mr Vara stated: “In November when I resigned there was an expectation Parliament would follow the course it has done for decades and decades. At that time there was no knowledge the Speaker would break over 100 years of tradition and change the rules.

“We have a Speaker who is making up the rules as we go along and he is making up those rules which are purely to ensure the UK does not leave the EU. That was abundantly clear with the options yesterday which were all on the Remain side.

“When I resigned in good faith there was no expectation we would have a biased Speaker who would exercise his powers to favour the Remain side.

“The withdrawal agreement remains bad. However, with much reluctance I voted for it last week because the options that were being presented with Parliament taking control were much worse.

“We are left with the least bad course of action, and this can be the only way we will have Brexit taking place. All other options take us back towards the EU.

“If we accept the deal we could then undo the damage of it from outside the EU rather than not leaving.”

Mr Vara voted Remain in the 2016 referendum but has been a vocal supporter of Brexit ever since, claiming that it would damage democracy not to Leave the EU, or to have a second vote.

The MP said another referendum would “divide the country” and highlighted that there have been two general elections in the past four years.

Yesterday’s indicative votes once again failed to find a Brexit option which could command a majority in the House of Commons, but Mr Vara has regularly stated that the UK has nothing to fear by leaving the EU with no deal.

He added: “One thing that does have a majority was the referendum.

“Eighty per cent of MPs were elected with manifestos saying they would take the UK out of the EU. That’s not being carried out by some of my colleagues.

“I have said before there has been preparation done for no deal by the Government and the EU. I accept there would be some short term difficulties, but it would put us in a very strong position to negotiate a fair deal with the EU which benefits the UK for decades to come.”

Asked for the response of his constituents to voting for Mrs May’s deal last Friday, which failed for a third time, Mr Vara responded: “The vast majority have been fully understanding and recognise that I have done my best to persuade the Prime Minister to get a better deal, but that has not happened.”

MP for Stamford Nick Boles quit the Conservative Party yesterday evening straight after it was announced all four alternative Brexit options had been defeated, including one he had championed.

The former skills minister tweeted: “The Conservative Party has shown itself to be incapable of compromise so I will sit as an Independent Progressive Conservative.”

Mr Vara said: “I’m always sorry to lose a Conservative colleague. I disagree with his reasoning but it’s his choice.”

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