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Speaker of Parliament deals another blow to Boris Johnson's Brexit plan

The prime minister has staked his political career on leaving the European Union on Oct. 31.
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LONDON — House of Commons Speaker John Bercow ruled Monday that the government could not ask lawmakers to vote again on the Brexit deal, in the latest blow to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

With Johnson facing another crunch week in Britain's ongoing Brexit saga, and after the prime minister hammered out an agreement with the European Union, he had hoped to bring his divorce deal in front of Parliament on Monday.

But Bercow — who is known for his efforts to impose calm on the tumultuous chamber with bellows of "Order! Order!" — refused to allow the vote because rules generally bar considering the same measure for a second time during the same session of Parliament unless something has changed.

"In summary, today's motion is in substance the same as Saturday's motion and the House (of Commons) has decided the matter. Today's circumstances are in substance the same as Saturday's circumstances," Bercow said in Parliament.

"My ruling is therefore that the motion will not be debated today as it would be repetitive and disorderly to do so."

The speaker's decision is a blow for the government, but it is not fatal.

The government will now attempt to bring forward the withdrawal agreement bill, legislation needed to bring the E.U. divorce deal into U.K. law.

Johnson's government plans to publish the bill later Monday and hopes to have it become law by Britain’s scheduled Oct. 31 departure date, according to The Associated Press.

However, it remains unclear whether the bill will win the backing of a majority in Parliament.

Johnson, who has staked his political career on leaving the E.U. by the deadline, had hoped his divorce plan would have been voted on in an extraordinary parliamentary session Saturday. But, as with much to do with Brexit, the session did not go as planned.

The prime minister was ambushed by rebel lawmakers who forced the government to ask Europe for another extension — something Johnson once vowed he’d rather be “dead in a ditch” than do.

Johnson sent a letter Saturday to Brussels asking for an extension but in a move that highlights the strained norms of British statecraft, he did not sign it and immediately sent a second saying he doesn’t really want an extension.

European officials haven’t yet given their answer to the request for more time to get the deal through Parliament. European leaders of the other 27 member states will be conflicted between their desire to put the Brexit issue to bed and a wish to avoid the United Kingdom crashing out of the E.U. without a deal at all. It is expected that they will agree to an extension.

Speaker John Bercow speaks during a debate on Brexit in London
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow address the chamber on Saturday.UK Parliament / Reuters

Whatever happens on the other side of the English Channel, British government ministers have reaffirmed Johnson’s intention to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 come what may and said they believed they had the numbers to get the divorce deal through Parliament this week.

“We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons, why hasn’t Parliament pushed this through? That’s what we’re going to do next week,” Foreign Secretary Dominc Raab told the BBC on Sunday.

Raab added that the government would continue to speak to its Northern Irish allies, the Democratic Unionist Party, which currently opposes the deal because it treats Northern Ireland differently as compared to the rest of the U.K.

The support of the DUP, which has 10 seats in Parliament, would give Johnson a better chance of passing his plan.

The new deal replaces an earlier divorce plan negotiated by former Prime Minister Theresa May that was rejected three times by Parliament. It comes as Britain’s opposition Labour Party has called for a second referendum on whether Britain should even leave the E.U.