MPs must work late and at weekends to get Brexit deal passed by October 31, says Rishi Sunak

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North Yorkshire MP and Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rishi Sunak today called on Parliament to sit late and work at weekends to get the Government's Brexit deal over the line.

Ahead of a ruling this afternoon on whether MPs will have a "meaningful vote" on Boris Johnson's Brexit deal, the Richmond MP told BBC Radio 4's Today show that "people would find it odd if we didn't put in few the extra hours required" to approve all the legislation needed by October 31.

Only ten days remain until the UK is set to leave the European Union, with Mr Johnson insisting that Brexit will happen on this day with or without a withdrawal deal with Brussels.

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Mr Sunak, a key ally of Mr Johnson who was promoted by the Prime Minister to his role at the Treasury, said: "Parliament has shown, time and time again, when it comes to these European matters, most recently with the Benn Act, an ability to move very quickly when it wants to. And of course we can sit late, we can sit at weekends, and that's of course what we should do.

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak at his office in Northallerton. Pic: Gary Longbottom

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak at his office in Northallerton. Pic: Gary Longbottom

"People will look to Parliament now to get this done, given that there is a good deal that has been negotiated which allows us to leave at the end of October, I think people would find it odd if we didn't put in few the extra hours required and sit late, sit at the weekends, get through this, get through it properly to end this uncertainty and get on with our lives."

He also denied that bringing the Brexit deal back for a vote today, after failing to do so over the weekend as a result of the so-called 'Letwin amendment', was a bid to portray as Parliament being obstructive.

The amendment put forward by Conservative Oliver Letwin withholds approval for the Prime Minister’s Brexit withdrawal agreement until relevant legislation has passed.

Because the deal was debated on Saturday, there are concerns that Speaker John Bercow could block a vote coming back so soon because of rules over the same matter being discussed twice.

"What the Oliver Letwin amendment did is mean that Parliament hasn't given its explicit positive support for the deal," Mr Sunak said.

"It was an observation on the deal happening and I think what people need is a substantive vote."

Asked if the only real purpose is to portray a Parliament being obstructive, he replied: "It's rather the opposite, actually. It's giving Parliament the opportunity to more positively affirm its support for this deal, which is something that needs to happen."

If the Speaker does block the move, focus will switch to the Government bringing its Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) before MPs today, with a vote on its second reading on Tuesday.

The WAB is the legally-binding treaty that must be passed for the UK to leave the bloc, while the Government must also win a meaningful vote.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay called on MPs to "respect the referendum" by backing the Bill, warning them: "This is the chance to leave the EU with a deal on October 31."

Ministers insist they could have sufficient support among MPs to get it passed so the UK can depart by the current October 31 deadline.

Separately, exiled former Tory minister, Rotherham-born Justine Greening, said it is "vital" that an amendment is brought to Boris Johnson's Brexit deal to get a second referendum.

She said she "wouldn't be surprised" if Commons Speaker John Bercow did not allow the Prime Minister's deal to come back before Parliament.

"This sense that somehow we will rubber-stamp it through Parliament when we only actually had the shape of the deal on Thursday last week I think is, frankly, not only unrealistic, it's highly risky because rushed law is bad law and if ever there was a need to get law right it's the next Brexit Bill."

Asked if she would seek an amendment for a second referendum, she replied: "I think, in the end, that's vital. It feels like we are a very long way from the lofty ideals that were debated by Vote Leave in 2016."