'I won’t be a party to it' - MP resigns from Brexit committee two days before it shuts down over Tory whipping row

A Yorkshire MP has resigned his position on an influential select committee two days before it is forced to shut down over what he called “dishonourable” behaviour by Conservative members.

Labour MP for Huddersfield Barry Sheerman, a member of the Future Relationship with the European Union select committee, said he virtually “walked out” of a private meeting held today (Thursday) and resigned his position over a final report to be published by the group.

Mr Sheerman said Tory whips tried to “flood” the meeting with MPs who did not usually attend - but were members - in an attempt to stop an upcoming report recommending a new committee be formed to carry on scrutinising the relationship with the EU.

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Mr Sheerman said: “It was the final report and it’s a nice report that said actually, there’s a lot of complex interaction between Europe, the European Union, and the UK Government, in future we need a new, different sort of committee to hold the Government to account on that relationship, and we made recommendations for it.

“It’s obviously annoyed Jacob Rees-Mogg and Boris Johnson, who don’t want the committee to carry on. We got to our final drafting meeting this morning and instead of the hardworking group that turns up every time, suddenly out of nowhere all these sleeping, non-attending Tory MPs turned up, whipped by the Government.

“So people who have never attended the committee, have not written or read the report, turned up to vote it down.”

Mr Rees-Mogg told committee chairman and Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn in a letter sent last week that the committee would have to close down on January 16.

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Mr Benn had asked for an extension to the committee’s term for an extra six months in order to question Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove and UK negotiator Lord Frost, who were not available before Saturday.

Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman. Photo: JPI MediaHuddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman. Photo: JPI Media
Huddersfield Labour MP Barry Sheerman. Photo: JPI Media

But Mr Rees-Mogg wrote: “There will be plenty of opportunities for questions, statements and debates, as well as the detailed analysis of the House select committees in the months ahead.

"Whilst this is ultimately a matter for the House, it is the view of the government that your committee’s work should come to an end in line with the current temporary Standing Orders, which were agreed by the House."

Mr Sheerman said: “What I said was ‘I’ve really enjoyed this committee, we’ve done some really good reports and I’ve enjoyed working with the team across party, but I don’t think it’s honourable, this sort of behaviour is dishonourable, I’m not sitting here when I know that the whips have marched these members in who know nothing about the subject, they’ve got not interest in it’.

“And I said I won’t be a party to it.”

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He added: “They had to do the heavy act and suddenly march in all these MPs because they are determined to stop any future European accountability committee.”

Mr Sheerman, who has been an MP for more than 40 years, said: “I’ve been around long enough to know what’s happening, and I’m not going to be a party to this, it’s dishonourable, it reminds me of some of the behaviour of the Republican congressmen in Washington yesterday.”

The Conservative Party was contacted for comment.

Leeds Central MP Mr Benn, who chairs the committee, said he would not comment on private meetings but already there were questions over Scottish fisheries and food supplies that the committee would have wanted to address.

He said: “There will of course be a need for continuing scrutiny.”

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