The speaker of Britain’s lower house of parliament has made it abundantly clear he is not going quietly into retirement at the end of October.
House of Commons Speaker John Bercow used a speech Thursday night to warn Prime Minister Boris Johnson to expect Parliament to take aggressive action to make sure its legislation designed to block a no-deal Brexit is respected.
He says he will allow “procedural creativity” in making sure Johnson doesn’t violate the new law, which took effect this week.
It requires Johnson to ask the European Union for an extension of the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline if no deal is reached by mid-October.
Johnson has said he will not seek an extension under any circumstances, saying colourfully he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit again. Britain voted narrowly to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum, but has not reached consensus on how to do so.
Bercow said the prime minister must obey the law and that it is “astonishing” any other course is being contemplated.
“It would be the most terrible example to set to the rest of society,” he said.
Bercow plans to step down from his influential post by the end of October, but it is clear he will use his final weeks in office to make sure Parliament’s will is respected on the crucial question of a possible no-deal departure from the EU bloc.
The government’s own assessment suggests an abrupt departure without an agreement risks severe economic problems and possible food and medicine shortages in Britain.
Parliament is currently suspended for five weeks, but Johnson’s decision to suspend the legislative branch for such an extended period has been ruled unlawful by a Scottish court and will be taken up by the U.K. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
An adverse decision for Johnson at Britain’s highest court would bring the feisty Parliament back into session earlier than he had intended.
It would also raise questions about whether Johnson’s government misled Queen Elizabeth when it requested her approval for a five-week suspension.