Just a few weeks after leaving his job as Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow entranced an initially sceptical audience during Friday’s Negotiator Conference, revealing opinions on Brexit, Boris Johnson, his impartiality, who will win the election. Here’s our summary of his fascinating and sometimes electrifying presentation.
“If the Conservatives can get an overall majority of at least 15 or 20 then phase one of Brexit (the transposition into law of the withdrawal agreement) will happen within a few weeks of the election.
“If that for you ladies and gentlemen means ‘getting Brexit done’ then great. But remember it’s just an important first stage that will work out the divorce bill and sort out the Northern Ireland question.
“But getting the trade agreements with the EU, the US and the rest of the world completed will then have to be sorted out – along with agreements on security, climate change, human trafficking and identity theft, for example.
“This will all take five years but the final sorting out of Brexit will take another ten years so it is perfectly conceivable that we will be debating Brexit for the next 15 years.
“I am happy now to tell you, now that I am free of the constraints of office, to say that my honest opinion is – and I respect the opinion of those who disagree with me – that Brexit is the greatest foreign policy blunder of the post war period.
“It is bad for the country – we may be able to offset its worst effects – but it remains a mistake and across Europe people are puzzled why we have chosen to leave one of the biggest power blocks in the world and our biggest trade partner. It is a monumental folly.”
“I won’t sit on the fence. As things stand the Conservatives are heading for a majority in double figures, and possibly more, although this depends on the outcome within 100 key margin constituencies.
“The ‘Let’s get Brexit done’ message resonates with voters fatigued by Brexit. I completely understand.”
“The speaker’s job is not be a nodding donkey or craven lickspittle for the government but instead to stand up for MPs individually and parliament institutionally,” he said.
“I wasn’t pro government or pro opposition; I was pro parliament. I accept that parliament has been much criticised, but it was discharging its duty to look at and question, probe and challenge and sometimes contradict the government of the day.
“Politicians are always accused of not doing what they say they will do after gaining power, but I hope that I have done what I did promise to do, even if it meant getting some flack and making controversial decisions and becoming a marmite character.”