Hilary Benn has said the reason the Letwin amendment to delay MPs voting on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal passed yesterday was because MPs cannot be sure what the Prime Minister is going to do next.
MPs voted to approve an amendment which delayed them approving Mr Johnson’s deal until Parliament passes the accompanying legislation.
The aim was to stop the deal being passed, but not enacted without the legislation before October 31, when the default would still be to leave without the deal. And it triggered the Benn Act which forced the PM to write to the EU last night requesting an extension.
Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight programme last night, the Leeds Central MP said:““The law is very clear the Government didn’t get the deal through the house today, we declined to approve it, and therefore he has to send the letter by the end of today but picking up the point you were discussing a little earlier, the question then is when does the EU consider it and when do they make a decision because until that point and they say ‘okay you can have an extension of whatever length’ the extension has not been secured.
“And the reason why Oliver Letwin’s amendment went through today is because there are a lot of members who are not 100 per cent confident in what the Prime Minister might try and do and so this was about safeguarding the best defence we have against a no deal brexit on 31st October.”
Mr Johnson is still insistent the UK will leave the EU by October 31 and it was a view backed up by Kevin Hollinrake, MP for Thirsk and Malton. He tweeted: “Thought [the] biggest barrier to a deal would be Brussels, turns out it’s Westminster. Still possible to get it done by 31/10 and we will work 24/7 to do so.”
While Martin Vickers, Tory MP for Cleethorpes warned “people are more angry and frustrated than ever before”.
Mr Johnson has tried to distance himself from a legally required request for a Brexit extension by stressing to the EU it was sent to Brussels at Parliament's bidding.
The Prime Minister got a senior diplomat to send an unsigned photocopy of the call by MPs to delay withdrawal from the bloc. And in a second note to European Council president Donald Tusk, the PM said a Brexit extension would be "deeply corrosive".
The stance is likely to spark a fierce political row.
The PM rang European leaders, including Mr Tusk, declaring that the letter "is Parliament's letter, not my letter".
The development came as the PM wrote to all Tory MPs and peers insisting that he will tell Brussels a further Brexit delay is "not a solution" to the situation.
In a letter to members of the Tory parliamentary party, the PM said: "I will tell the European Union what I have told the British public for my 88 days as Prime Minister: further delay is not a solution."
He added: "It is quite possible that our friends in the European Union will reject Parliament's request for a further delay (or not take a decision quickly)."