Apparently John Bercow (House of Commons speaker) has been directly talking with David Sassoli of the EU Parliament

John Bercow has sparked outrage after it has emerged the meddling Speaker of the House of Commons has bypassed Prime Minister Boris Johnson and British Parliament to negotiate with the EU on Brexit for the United Kingdom.

Brexit Party chair Richard Tice took to Twitter in a furious rampage against the Speaker of the Commons, arguing the Tory MP has no authority to act on behalf of Mr Johnson. Mr Tice, referring to David Sassoli, said: “Here in Brussels new President Sassoli admits in chamber that he has bypassed the UK PM and Govt and is now in direct discussions with Bercow about Brexit negotiations. He refused to take my urgent question on what authority they had to have these discussions.” It has also been claimed an option Mr Sassoli has agreed with Mr Bercow is a second EU referendum, sparking fury among Brexiteers.

Putting aside the political outrage, can Bercow (or another MP) negotiate (and possibly even get passed) a Brexit deal or extension without aid of the Prime Minister?

  • Talks between delegations of legislators are extremely common, even if they usually don't make the news. Topics include best practice ("how do you do X"), trust-building measures ("let's meet our counterparts in Moscow"), and at times waste ("we need a reason to visit California. Hmm, talk about air pollution."). No outrage, unless they negotiate/promise things they are not allowed to negotiate.
    – o.m.
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 15:57
  • @o.m. I suspected this was a bit over dramatized. Still, it makes for an interesting question if he can actually do it or not
    – Machavity
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 16:03
  • If a majority in the UK parliament and in the EU parliament agreed on a compromise (and Speakers speaking may be the groundwork for that) they would still have to convince the EU27 heads of government. But they would be a power that is hard to ignore.
    – o.m.
    Commented Oct 9, 2019 at 17:44

1 Answer 1


The short version is that it could probably made legal to do it that way, but almost certainly won't happen, for good political and legal reasons.

The relevant bits of Article 50 are:

  1. A Member State which decides to withdraw shall notify the European Council of its intention. In the light of the guidelines provided by the European Council, the Union shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union. That agreement shall be negotiated in accordance with Article 218(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. It shall be concluded on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

  2. The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

Since the European Council is a "Heads of Government" club, there is an underlying assumption that they negotiate with the executive of the departing member state. However, the other EU tenet is that the negotiations respect the constitutional arrangements of the member state, and the UK's constitution is extremely maleable by Parliament if it chooses.

Reasons that this won't actually happen include:

  • the government would fight it tooth and nail procedurally
  • the opposition to the previous deals have been from both the "too hard" and "too soft", this makes it very hard to move towards any deal with plurality support.
  • there is an expectation that at some point the UK political process will snap back to normal, so neither of the leaderships of the biggest parties wants to tie their hands like this.
  • It's actually easier for the House of Commons to just replace the Prime Minister if there were genuine agreement on a way forward, which wouldn't need also keeping the Lords in agreement.

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