Updated on Mar 22, 2019. Posted on Mar 22, 2019

    Here's The Full Story Of The Most Calamitous Week In Brexit Yet

    In which Britain slips in a dog turd and then falls down a flight of stairs towards the finish line.

    You know those horror films where you spend the whole thing wondering how the main character's going to get away from a murderer, and you think they've done it, and then in the final frame of the film you realise the killer's in the back seat of their car?

    Emmanuel Dunand / AFP / Getty Images

    Welcome to Brexit: Endgame.

    At the start of the week, everything was going to plan.

    Britain was set to have another round of interminable debates about Brexit, a third "Meaningful Vote" (at what point does that phrase lose all sense of, well, meaning?) on May's deal, and maybe another one after that. The hope was that enough people holding out against the deal would lose their nerve and we could celebrate finding a solution that made literally no one happy and was therefore a resounding success.

    And then, all of a sudden, shit got crazy. Because of this man. He is John Bercow, and he is the Speaker of the House of Commons. He is nominally impartial (more on this later). He has a lot of different jobs, but one of them is upholding parliamentary rules.

    Jack Taylor / Getty Images

    On Monday, Bercow, much to everyone's surprise, told Theresa May that her deal couldn't be brought back for another vote without substantial changes.

    Sense of absolute shock among ministers - no idea what to do. "There's no plan yet, everyone is just trying to come to terms with it," one says.

    I say "everyone's surprise". There had in fact been murmurings that this could happen for some time.

    But the thing was, Bercow was citing a rule that dates back to 1604 from Erskine May, the guide to parliamentary procedure, in order to block the vote.

    The Erskine May 1604 precedent. "The Same Question Or Bill May Not be Twice Offered in One Session" https://t.co/JVJb3bLTzw

    Which is kind of officious.

    Erskine May vs Theresa May: This time it's personal

    To put the 1604 precedent into context, this is what MPs used to look like 400 years ago:

    And so MPs got really mad.

    We now go live to John Bercow’s statement

    In large part this was nothing to do with their view on this particular application of the rules, and everything to do with their general view of John Bercow.

    Cabinet source: 'The only thing agreed this morning was that everyone hates Bercow'

    He's a Remainer, and there's a view that some precedents matter more than others where he's concerned. For instance, many Leave-supporting MPs felt he broke protocol himself when he allowed a pro-Remain MP to put down an amendment on a bill the government had been told could not be amended.

    We go live to John Bercow in the House of Commons:

    On top of this — how can I put this politely? John Bercow is kind of perceived as being heavily invested in...John Bercow?

    My colleague @josephmdurso with a model lesson in persistence for all aspiring reporters.......

    Yeah, so he really gets under a lot of MPs' skin.

    You have been watching THE JOHN BERCOW SHOW starring JOHN BERCOW

    And so the most quintessentially Brexit thing came to pass: MPs spent a day raging about being denied a chance to vote on a bill most of them don't support, due to the correct application of the rules.

    The whole parliament hates Brexit deal, the deal on Brexit nobody will vote for! *1 Bercow later* We regret to inform you we loved Brexit deal

    Which was a great use of everyone's time, but it also left us in a bind.

    With time running out, far from taking back control (©), we now had to politely ask the EU if we could possibly delay Brexit, which, given some of the rhetoric flying around previously, was, well...

    ...not good.

    "Dear Mr Tusk, Please may I have a short extension to the deadline, as my dogma has eaten my homework?"

    It also made things extremely complicated, because not only was there a question over whether Bercow would allow the deal to be voted on again, there was a question over whether the EU felt we had a credible enough reason to allow us a delay.

    Inasmuch as I understand what is going on, the EU will only let us have an extension if MP can show we don't actually need an extension, and they are to show this by voting a the opposite way from before in a new vote that the Speaker has already said they're not allowed to have.

    Honestly the possibility for amusing outcomes here was endless.

    @aljwhite the banter heuristic demands MPs vote to bring back the deal, then vote the deal down again

    Anyway, first we had to send the EU a letter setting out how big an extension was needed. Great excitement among the political lobby as the EU appeared not to have received it. But finally it was announced they had. Hooray!

    MAY: You're SURE it's gone? GRAYLING: Definitely MAY: You know 100% that the Article 50 revocation fax was sent? GRAYLING: Oh yes MAY: Phew because it's 00:01 GRAYLING: I did it personally MAY: Wait... what?! JUNKER: What is this? BARNIER: A picture of an envelope

    Now all that was needed was for Theresa May to give a statement to the general public before she went over to Brussels to commence begging/setting out her terms (pls delete according to your stance on Brexit).

    Theresa May’s constant statements outside Downing Street is the political equivalent of a work meeting that could have been an email

    We're quite used to these speeches by now.

    And true to form, she gave a statement blaming MPs for the mess, and taking none of the responsibility for her own handling of the issue. It was seen by many of the very people she was trying to win over as dangerous, disingenuous, and borderline hysterical.

    So that went well.

    I'm not sure this is fair to some of May's other Downing Street statements. https://t.co/6N63LTwWLI

    You may remember there's an opposition party in Britain, in which case well done. Jeremy Corbyn's contribution to the crisis was to storm out of cross-party talks going on at around the same time.

    “You’re not my real dad” https://t.co/5O5BOIBmEl

    Some people say he was right to do this because the talks were a sham. But given we're really in proper crisis territory now, you might be forgiven for hoping he'd at least give it a go.

    On the plus side at least Theresa May doesn’t walk out of meetings just because there’s someone there who doesn’t like her. Otherwise cabinet would never meet.

    May arrived in Brussels, and tweeted a calming video, which I for one was delighted to engage with.

    @theresa_may Cool thanks for update, all seems to be going fine

    Anyway, it did indeed go brilliantly. At least from the EU's point of view. The end result was this: Article 50 can be extended until May 22, but only if MPs approve the deal. If they don't, the UK has until April 12 to come up with a new plan or it crashes out without a deal.

    EU official says that when leaders asked May what she was going to do if her deal was voted down, she would only reply that she was following her 'Plan A' of getting it through. It was then they decided 'she didn't have a plan so they needed to come up with one for her'.

    So not only do we still have no idea what's going to happen, the Easter Holidays are ruined.

    Still, what's the worst that could happen?

    Sky News can reveal the armed forces have activated a team in a nuclear bunker beneath the Ministry of Defence to step up preparations for a 'no-deal' Brexit


    Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

    Contact Alan White at alan.white@buzzfeed.com.

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