Queen's Consent isn't the same thing as Royal Assent.

The new Brexit delay bill, aka the European Union (Withdrawal) (No. 6) Bill, has passed its 1st reading in the commons, but it's been suggested there may be a fatal flaw in it, one much like a chess fork, fix it & it fails for a different reason.

Proponents of the new Bill to stop No Deal face a significant dilemma over Queen’s Consent

Is Robert Craig right, is parliament wasting its time on the delay bill?

  • 2
    As it is phrased, [the title of] this question asks us to predict the future. Yes, the government could do that... Will they? Probably not if they want the Parliament to agree to a general election. Some horse trading going on. Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 4:46
  • @Fizz : Taking into account the body of the text & links below the title I'd disagree that was the case but would you be happier with it if I replaced the title with the last line of the body text? I've no interest in 'horse trading' I just want to know the facts of if Queen's Consent can be used to stop the bill as it is.
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 4:56
  • N.B: the Benn bill has passed its 3rd reading in the Commons. Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 6:55
  • @Fizz : & this hasn't come up? was it amended b4 passing the 3rd reading?
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 16:02
  • 1
    @Fizz: it's Queen's Consent, not Royal Consent. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queen%27s_Consent Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 9:27

3 Answers 3


Presumably the government can advise the Queen to withhold consent. And unlike withholding Assent, there's much more recent precedent for it (again from Wikipedia).

In 1999, Queen Elizabeth II, acting on the advice of her British Cabinet, refused to signify her consent to the Parliament of the United Kingdom debating the Military Action Against Iraq (Parliamentary Approval) Bill, which sought to transfer from the sovereign to parliament the power to authorize military strikes against Iraq. This prevented the bill from being debated. In 1988, the Palace of Westminster (Removal of Crown Immunity) Bill could not be debated in the British parliament because Queen's Consent was withheld, as with the Reform of the House of Lords Bill in 1990.

Also note (same source):

If consent is required but not signified, a bill may make no further progress through parliament. If a bill is mistakenly allowed to progress even though the required consent was not signified and the error is discovered before Royal Assent has been given, the proceedings may later be declared void.

But again, the news is that opposition is refusing to grant the PM the general election he desires until the Benn bill has received Assent (not merely consent); and after the latter is granted consent can no longer be withheld.

The gaining of Royal Assent for the bill was a requirement that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said his party would need before it considered backing Mr Johnson's call for a general election.

And more particularly, Bercrow (the Speaker of the House) has ruled out that consent was needed for this bill.

Sir Bill Cash, the Tory Brexiter, asked if the bill required Queen’s consent. Cash said he was inspired to ask the question partly by this blog by Robert Craig, a public law lecturer, who suggested Queen’s consent would be required. He argued that this would be a problem.

But Bercow told Cash he had considered this matter and decided Queen’s consent was not required.

I'm not sure of the exact route how this ruling could be appealed, but presumably the Queen can overrule him at Assent time, if Bercrow was somehow in error on this.

  • The election bits & consequences / 'horse trading' to steal a quote from another of your comments isn't relevant to the question, speaking to it though it's my opinion it's probably just posturing, he probably doesn't care if they do or don't, he'll probably be happy with an election after the 31st, but that's irrelevant, the point is (if you're right) they can't stop him doing brexit (if he wants to) if they they don't win an election against him b4 the 31st.
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 5:17
  • 'Bercrow (the Speaker of the House) has ruled out that consent' thanks, missed that, all the fluff aside you appear to have found my answer for me, thanks for that :)
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 16:54
  • Another question might be was Bercow right but that isn't within the remit of this question & perhaps strays too far into personal opinion so I won't be asking that one :)
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 5, 2019 at 16:55

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument that No10 knew or at least assumed as very probable:

  1. Given the parliament’s voting record, any push for no deal will be defeated by backbenchers.

  2. There will be a number of own MPs voting agains the government - eg half of the previous government was strongly opposed to no deal

  3. Johnson genuinely believes that it’s easier to negotiate with EU once outside and a practical deal can be achieved within months as in everyone’s interest

  4. No 10 did employ Cummings for a reason - that he’s defeated establishment before, can be ruthless to achieve his goals and is easy to get rid of once out of the EU

  5. The Brexit rebels have lost it to a certain degree and became so fixated on “no deal” they can’t see anything beyond.

  6. Johnson realised he has to deliver Brexit to reestablish the party, regardless of the means, the only important thing is that the end has to be reached as soon as possible.

  7. All mainstream journalists are in react mode and every new twist surprises them for about a day before they take it as something “it’s obvious, you didn’t know that”? But in fact they are easy to exploit to keep everyone thinking how remain is winning and he is being humiliated.

  8. The government didn’t spend the whole summer drinking bubbly but actually stating 1-7 is certainties and actively exploring options to achieve Brexit, put Labour into a position when they have to decide whether they are for or against Brexit, identifying best strategy to win gen. elections. And getting U.K. out of EU without deal with plausible deniability that their hands were tied by the opposition.

But as Dominic Cummings said - I don’t know very much about very much.


The question will boil down to enforceability. Once passed, Johnson may challenge the legality of the Benn Bill due to the lack of Queen's Consent. As per the reasoning set forth in Craig's article, Parliament may not compel an infringement of the royal prerogative without Queen's Consent. But that's exactly what this bill is doing. Johnson, acting as PM, may properly refuse to implement his responsibilities under the act and it would be up to Parliament to take him to court to force compliance. However, the law would clearly be on Johnson's side.

Of course, they could then go for a Vote of No Confidence and win, but that would likely lead to an election, which is exactly what Johnson wants.

Johnson is quite correct when he asserts that he'd rather be dead in a ditch before he requests another extension from the EU. Parliament may need to take him up on his offer to get the extension they're looking for.

  • What about Bercow's ruling theguardian.com/politics/live/2019/sep/04/… linked by @Fizz in his answer?
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 15:38
  • I think Bercow's ruling can be examined by the court. What was the legal advice he was given from the Common's Clerk before he ruled? If it's at odds with how he actually ruled then that would be taken into consideration by the Court.
    – user351059
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 15:57
  • His legal advice wasn't made available to the best of my knowledge, but I was of the understanding that once the speaker rules then whatever his ruling 'it is so', I'm not sure his rulings can be challenged in the courts?
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 15:59
  • Bercow is not the Queen. There may be precedent of not challenging a speaker in the past. But how else will Parliament compel Johnson's compliance outside of litigation?
    – user351059
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 16:02
  • Umm, the main drive of my last reply was I thought Bercow's ruling does effectively compel the government? so I'm little confused what you're saying?
    – Pelinore
    Commented Sep 6, 2019 at 16:04

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