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Outgoing Speaker Bercow: would not rule out second Brexit referendum

ZURICH (Reuters) - Outgoing speaker of the British House of Commons John Bercow would not rule out a second referendum to solve the country’s Brexit impasse, he told an audience in Zurich on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: Britain's Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, speaks at New York University in New York City, U.S., September 16, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

“We could leave the European Union with a deal, without a deal if that was the explicit choice of Parliament or we could resolve to seek an extension of Article 50 with a view to a mechanism to resolve the matter,” Bercow said about the options facing Britain as it struggles to implement a 2016 vote to quit the EU.

That could involve further negotiations, an election or another public vote, Bercow said.

“It could happen,” he said, speaking at an event at the University of Zurich. “Will it, I don’t know. I don’t think there is any certainty about the matter.”

Bercow, known for his thundering cries of “Order! Order!”, has been speaker since 2009 and is due to stand down in the coming weeks.

The lawmaker has been a champion of Britain’s parliament in its attempts to rein in Prime Minister Boris Johnson over Brexit.

Earlier this month lawmakers defeated Johnson to pass a law ordering Johnson to seek a delay from the Oct. 31 Brexit deadline.

Bercow said the law preventing a no deal Brexit before Oct. 31 without the consent of parliament was “non-negotiable.”

“That is the law of the land. It is non-negotiable,” he said.

“One can no more argue that it is legitimate to disregard that law on the grounds that one is motivated by the noble goal of delivering Brexit by a specified date, than one can justify robbing a bank with the excuse that one fully intends immediately to donate the proceeds of the robbery to a magnificent charitable cause.”

The problems surrounding implementing Britain’s Brexit vote meant it might be time for the country to consider a written constitution, he added.

With less than two months until Britain’s most important political decision in decades, Bercow, whose position is formally meant to be neutral, has helped give lawmakers the chance to strip control of the outcome away from the government.

He was also critical of the populists like Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage for their attacks on parliament, while the suspension of the House of Commons needed to be examined.

Britain’s Supreme Court aims to deliver its ruling early next week on whether Prime Minister Boris Johnson acted unlawfully when he suspended parliament for five weeks in the run-up to Brexit.

“Something can be wrong and a constitutional outrage, but not necessarily prove to be illegal,” Bercow said, declining to comment on the court case.

Reporting by John Revill; editing by Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi