The Letwin plot: Former Tory MP wants to stop Parliament approving Brexit deal until all legislation is approved – so PM is forced to ask for an extension
- There was anger in Downing Street last night over the parliamentary move
- Former Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin proposed an amendment yesterday that would withhold Parliament’s final support for the agreement
- The Government would also have to ask the EU for an extension to withdrawal
There was anger in Downing Street last night over a parliamentary move that could deny Boris Johnson a clean vote on his Brexit deal today.
Former Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin proposed an amendment yesterday that would withhold Parliament’s final support for the agreement until all the necessary legislation for it is approved.
If passed today, the amendment will prevent MPs from holding the so-called ‘meaningful vote’ on the Prime Minister’s deal.
The Government would also have to ask the EU for an extension to Britain’s withdrawal thanks to the so-called Benn Act, passed by MPs last month, which forces the Prime Minister to apply to delay Brexit until January 31 if his deal is not passed in the Commons.
Former Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin (pictured in the Commons yesterday) proposed an amendment yesterday that would withhold Parliament’s final support for the agreement until all the necessary legislation for it is approved
Last night, Government sources accused supporters of the controversial amendment – which is likely to pass with Labour backing – of trying to frustrate Brexit.
One source said: ‘If it passes, it’s an act of sabotage dressed up as reasonableness. MPs are still trying to put off the moment of decision.’
Sir Oliver insisted that he was a supporter of the Prime Minister’s plans and that it was only designed to act as an insurance policy to ensure that the UK did not leave the EU without a deal on October 31.
But a Government source said: ‘The amendment is not about conditional approval – it is explicitly withholding approval. The vast majority of the signatories have no intention of ever voting for a deal, and have never done so. They want an extension and a chance for a second referendum.’
The motivation behind the Letwin amendment had apparently been the prospect of Mr Johnson’s deal passing today, only for a No Deal Brexit to happen on October 31.
The motivation behind the Letwin amendment had apparently been the prospect of Mr Johnson’s (pictured) deal passing today, only for a No Deal Brexit to happen on October 31
This would occur if the deal passed the Commons today, only to fall away in the subsequent days when MPs were actually required to pass the legisalation that enacts it. Some had feared this could then unlock a route to no deal on October 31.
Under the terms of the amendment, the Commons withholds approval of the deal until the legislation has passed first. Supporters of the plan said they wanted an insurance policy against a no deal Brexit. Some of the 21 former Tory MPs who were kicked out of the party by Boris Johnson said they would back his Brexit deal – provided the amendment was voted through first.
Sir Oliver’s plan appears to suggest many MPs still don’t trust the hardcore eurosceptics not to run down the clock to a No Deal exit.
Former chancellor Philip Hammond, ex-justice secretary David Gauke and former work and pensions minister Amber Rudd all indicated they would back the amendment, along with leading Remainers Labour’s Hilary Benn, Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson and Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts.
Mr Hammond suggested he would vote against the Brexit deal unless the Government ruled out leaving without an agreement in December 2020. In The Times, he wrote: ‘I haven’t come this far seeking to avoid no-deal in 2019 to be duped into voting for a heavily camouflaged no-deal at the end of 2020.’
Sir Nicholas Soames said he would vote in favour of the deal and that his other 20 colleagues who had the whip removed would ‘by and large vote for it’.
Last night, No10 sources were bullish and insisted a vote could still take place today on the Prime Minister’s deal despite the amendment, however it is not yet clear what status this would have if the amendment is successful.
Sir Oliver said the purpose of his amendment was to ensure an extension to the negotiations if there were problems in passing the deal’s legislation in Parliament.
Mr Hammond (pictured) suggested he would vote against the Brexit deal unless the Government ruled out leaving without an agreement in December 2020.
He added: ‘Basically we are supporting the deal and we are making sure there is an insurance policy to make sure there isn’t a mistake that leads to an unforeseen crashing out,’ he said.
He added: ‘We are creating a sustained insurance policy which means if something goes wrong with the legislation, then we will be sure that the country will be in the EU beyond 31 October until we have found some other way of getting out conveniently.’
However, Sir Oliver said the amendment would make it easier for Labour MPs to vote with the Government, adding: ‘They know they won’t find themselves in that crashing out position later in the month if something goes wrong in the legislation process, so I really do think it maximises the chance of the deal going through.’