John Bercow: Brexit is 'biggest foreign policy mistake' since Second World War

6 November 2019, 16:18

Bercow called Brexit the "biggest foreign policy mistake" since WWII
Bercow called Brexit the "biggest foreign policy mistake" since WWII. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

John Bercow has branded Brexit "the biggest foreign policy mistake in the post-war period" just days after stepping down from his role as Commons Speaker.

The divisive former parliamentarian was often accused of thwarting Britain's efforts to leave the EU as well as Remain bias by pro-Brexit MPs.

Speaking at a press gathering in London, Mr Bercow told journalists that he stayed impartial whilst in the Chair but could now express his opinion as a Remainer.

"I'm no longer the Speaker, I don't have to remain impartial now and if you asked me honestly do I think that Brexit is good for our global standing? The honest answer is no, I don't," he told reporters.

"I think that Brexit is the biggest foreign policy mistake in the post-war period, and that is my honest view."

John Bercow stepped down from his role as House of Commons Speaker last week after 10 years in the key Commons position.

He was replaced by the former senior deputy Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on Monday after a long day of voting in Westminster.

Bercow was officially replaced by Hoyle on Monday
Bercow was officially replaced by Hoyle on Monday. Picture: PA

During his tenure Mr Bercow was regularly criticised for bending the rules to allow rebel backbenchers to outmanoeuvre government.

He told the audience "for the umpteenth time" and for any "avoidance of doubt" that he believed he "was always fair in the Chair."

"[I was] fair to the Brexiteers, to whom I granted urgent questions and emergency debates before the word 'Brexiteer' had even been invented.

"For years, Bill Cash, Bernard Jenkin, John Redwood, John Baron, all of them know that I selected an amendment to the Queen's Speech in 2013 calling for a referendum on British membership of the EU.

"Why did I select that amendment? Because it was heavily signed and I thought it was a legitimate proposition which should be put to the House of Commons and the House of Commons rejected it."

Former Speaker John Bercow waved goodbye to the role last week
Former Speaker John Bercow waved goodbye to the role last week. Picture: PA

Mr Bercow reiterated his point that he was fair to Remainers and Brexiters whilst Speaker and that he wished to uphold the conventions and rules of Parliament.

He added: "I completely respect the right of the Prime Minister, leading the largest party in Parliament, to try to get support for his position, which is to get Brexit done.

"If he had the numbers, he could have got the first phase done and he made a start by getting agreement towards the end, but not to the legislation, so he decided to leave that and instead to seek a public mandate.

"I respect his right to his view which is a view very widely shared but there is an alternative view equally that is very widely shared and my own personal opinion is that Brexit does not help us.

"We are part of a world of power blocs and trade blocs and my view is that it is better to be part of that power bloc and of that trade bloc than not."

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