Anti-Brexit QC aided Oliver Letwin: Lawyer who masterminded Supreme Court humiliation helped draft the wrecking amendment
- Ten former Tory rebels derailed crucial Commons vote, dubbed ‘Super Saturday’
- MPs voted 322 to 306 in favour of amendment to withhold Brexit deal approval
- Sir Oliver said it was ‘insurance policy’ intended to ensure UK cannot ‘crash out
- Amendment destroyed Downing Street’s attempts to seek Commons approval
Lord Pannick QC who led the charge against the Prime Minister in the Supreme Court
Remainer ringleader Sir Oliver Letwin was aided by a top anti-Brexit lawyer in his successful bid to sabotage Boris Johnson’s triumphant Brussels deal yesterday.
Ten former Tory rebels derailed the crucial Commons vote, dubbed ‘Super Saturday’, helped by Lord Pannick QC – who has led the charge against the Prime Minister in the Supreme Court – sparking a bitter war of words in Westminster.
Suspended former Cabinet Ministers including Philip Hammond, David Gauke and Amber Rudd backed Sir Oliver’s amendment, which Lord Pannick helped write, designed to force Mr Johnson to seek a Brexit extension tonight.
MPs voted 322 to 306 in favour of the amendment, withholding approval of the Brexit deal until legislation to implement it is enshrined in law, to the delight of Remainers and cheering protesters outside Parliament.
Sir Oliver said it was an ‘insurance policy’ intended to ensure the UK cannot ‘crash out’ of the EU on October 31 with no deal, but one Minister said: ‘Oliver can no longer pretend he’s not trying to wreck leaving.’
The amendment destroyed Downing Street’s attempts to seek Commons approval of the deal Mr Johnson forged with Brussels on Thursday – to the anger of the Prime Minister and former Tory colleagues.
The ten former Tories who defied Boris including Philip Hammond MP for Runnymede and Oliver Letwin MP for Dorset West
Last night, in a furious briefing war, Government insiders accused Mr Letwin of colluding with the leading QC who helped defeat Mr Johnson in the Supreme Court earlier this month and has been a leading player in anti-Brexit legal challenges.
In 2016, Lord Pannick represented anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller when she challenged the Government in court to demand MPs be given a chance to block the triggering of Brexit.
Guto Beeb MP for Aberconwy 52.2% Leave (left). Nick Boles MP for Grantham 61% Leave (right)
And he represented the Remain-backing financier again in September when she challenged Boris Johnson’s bid to suspend Parliament in the Supreme Court, a clash that saw the PM humiliated.
It was claimed by senior Tories that Mr Letwin had left a meeting with the Prime Minister seeking a compromise over his amendment and immediately rang the top lawyer from No 10 on Friday evening.
Lord Pannick denied the suggestion he had been in contact with Sir Oliver from Downing Street or at all on Friday, but confirmed he had aided the rebel with his drafting of the amendment from a legal perspective. He defended his right to do so as he is not involved in any current Brexit legislation.
Last night a senior Tory said: ‘This isn’t Letwin’s amendment, it’s Pannick’s amendment. Pannick is the organ grinder – Letwin’s just the useful idiot.’
Antoinette Sandbach MP for Eddisbury 52.2% Leave (left). Oliver Letwin MP for Dorset West 51% Leave (right)
And furious Cabinet Ministers broke cover to publicly slam Sir Oliver, with Trade Secretary Liz Truss tweeting: ‘Extremely frustrating meaningful vote has been prevented. The country wants us to support this deal and move on to the future. We will not give up!’ Tory MP Owen Paterson added: ‘Passing the Letwin Amendment and declining even to come to a verdict on the new Brexit deal just about sums up this rotten Parliament.’
Rebel Labour MP Caroline Flint blasted Remainers who had underestimated Mr Johnson’s odds of getting a Brussels deal, hitting out: ‘This was a panic measure to reinsert the three-month delay for one reason only to thwart a deal.’ Yesterday’s results indicate Mr Johnson may actually have the numbers to pass his Brexit deal in a straight up-and-down vote, with 306 voting with the Government including all 283 currently serving Conservative MPs and 11 of the 21 Tories expelled by Mr Johnson last month.
The six Labour MPs who voted with the government and are also expected to vote for the Prime Minister’s deal
And some of the nine Tory rebels who voted with Mr Letwin, including David Gauke and Nick Boles, have indicated they would support the deal after the extension had been requested.
Tory whips had embarked on a frantic attempt to win back the support of the sacked Tory rebels and were delighted half of them voted with the Government. A source said: ‘It’s becoming increasingly clear which ones are the irreconcilables and which ones have a future in the Conservative Party if they back this deal.’
A Downing Street insider also compared the whipping of Saturday’s vote to ‘snakes and ladders’.
‘Obviously voting for the deal is a very big ladder, but it’s not a simple path back.’ They claimed voting for Letwin or any other delay to Brexit was obviously ‘a very big snake’ all the way’ back to square one’.