EU Parliament chief accused of ‘interfering’ after Brexit meeting with Speaker
9 October 2019, 20:54 | Updated: 9 October 2019, 20:56
David Sassoli confirmed he told Speaker John Bercow MEPs were prepared to approve an Article 50 extension if it was to hold a second referendum.
Nigel Farage and pro-Brexit MEPs branded it “disgraceful” that Speaker John Bercow and his EU counterpart met to discuss Brexit and a possible second referendum.
Mr Bercow met with David Sassoli, the President of the European Parliament, while the Italian politician was in London following his meeting with Boris Johnson.
Mr Sassoli – who carries out a similar function to the Speaker by refereeing MEP debates in Brussels – confirmed he met Mr Bercow on Wednesday to discuss extending Article 50 and his own views on a second referendum.
He said the pair were “on the same wavelength” when it came to the “importance” of the roles of both Parliaments in the Brexit process.
Both MPs and MEPs will have to approve any Brexit deal agreed by the European Commission and Downing Street.
The Speaker, who is meant to remain neutral, has already played a pivotal role in Brexit having allowed emergency debates posed by Opposition MPs to go ahead.
MPs used one such debate last month to take control of the order paper and pass the Benn Act that forces the Prime Minister to extend the Brexit negotiations until January 2020 if a deal is not in place by October 19.
Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage branded the meeting “disgraceful” and party chair Richard Tice asked “what authority” the pair had to hold such discussions.
Belinda de Lucy MEP launched into a tirade against Mr Sassoli following his announcement to the European Parliament, accusing the Italian politician of “directly interfering” in British politics.
She said: “Let me make this very clear Mr Sassoli, you have no right to go and speak with the UK Speaker and have conversations that are directly interfering into our domestic politics,” said the Brexit Party representative for the South East of England.
“It exposes your intentions to intervene at all levels to stop Brexit. It is immoral. Shame on you.”
Mr Sassoli had been in the Capital to meet Mr Johnson on Tuesday as part of a tour to meet with European leaders. He travelled back to Brussels following his discussions with Mr Bercow.
In a statement, he said his message to the Speaker was that the European Parliament approve a Brexit extension if it was to allow “time for a general election or a referendum”.
Addressing MEPs in Brussels on Wednesday, he added: “Speaker Bercow and I were very much on the same wavelength regarding the importance of the roles of our respective Parliaments in managing Brexit and we share an awareness that a chaotic exit of the United Kingdom from the EU would work to the detriment of both sides.”
Speaker Mr Bercow – whose car once brandished a “Bollocks to Brexit” sticker – is preparing to stand down from the role he has held for 10 years later this month, with the October 31 Brexit deadline announced as his final day in charge of Commons proceedings.
He has come in for criticism by those vying to replace him for the way he has run the Commons.
Tory MP Shailesh Vara said he believed Mr Bercow had “tarnished the role of Speaker with his biasness” over Brexit and described him as a “verbal playground bully”.
Mr Vara, speaking at a hustings in front of journalists, said: “I think that he loses all authority to lecture to MPs as to how they should behave when his own behaviour is in question.”
Mr Bercow has been accused of calling former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom a “stupid woman” – which he denied – and of failing to act on complaints about bullying and harassment in Parliament.
The election of the next Commons Speaker will take place on November 4.