Brexit vote will be "meaningless"if Letwin Amendment passes, Government says

19 October 2019, 12:39

The Brexit Secretary addressed the Commons
The Brexit Secretary addressed the Commons. Picture: House of Commons
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

MPs will end up having a "meaningless" vote if the Letwin Amendment passes, says the Brexit Secretary.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier said the government could not be trusted and his party's MPs would "not be duped" into supporting Boris Johnson's agreement.

However, the Prime Minister received a boost after the leader of the pro-Brexit Tory European Research Group, Steve Baker, says he expected his members to "overwhelmingly" back it.

But Mr Johnson's plans could be sunk by an amendment which would force him to ask for a delay.

Downing Street sources have said if the Letwin Amendment passes MPs will be sent home and a new vote would be scheduled for next week.

Speaking in Parliament at a historic Saturday sitting Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay urged former Tory MP Sir Oliver Letwin to withdraw his proposal, which would prevent Boris Johnson's Brexit deal going through until legislation around the UK's exit from the EU is made law.

Sir Oliver has said he wants to make sure Britain does not leave without a deal by mistake, describing his amendment as an "insurance policy."

As he opened the debate on a Government motion asking MPs to approve Boris Johnson's Brexit deal, Mr Barclay said: "This House called for a meaningful vote yet today some who champion that now suggest it should delay longer still.

"I respect the intention of [Sir Oliver], who is someone who has supported the vote three times and has indicated his support today, but his amendment would render today's vote meaningless.

"It'd cause further delay when our constituents and our businesses want an end to uncertainty and are calling for us to get this done."

The Brexit Secretary said the public will be "appalled by pointless further delay." He added Brexit needed to be done by October the 31st so that the country can "move forward," Mr Barclay then appealed directly to Sir Oliver to withdraw the legislation.

Independent MP Ed Vaizey, who was one of 21 rebel Tory MPs who had the whip removed after voting to try to block a no-deal Brexit in September, asked the Brexit Secretary to confirm what will happen if the Letwin amendment passes.

The Wantage MP asked: "Can he just answer me yes or no on this? If the Letwin amendment passes and the Bill comes in next week and it passes by October 31 we leave on October 31, yes or no?

"If the Letwin amendment doesn't pass and the Bill comes through next week and it doesn't pass by October 31, we leave with no deal, yes or no?"

Responding Mr Barclay said: "What is yes is to proceed we need to pass section 13 (to allow a meaningful vote). That is an argument he and many others have repeatedly raised. That is why it is important we defeat this amendment to deliver that and avoid any further delay."

Independent MP Nick Boles, formerly of the Conservatives, tweeted: "Some mischievous speculation that Oliver Letwin might be persuaded to pull his amendment. He will forgive me for observing that there is more chance of him being called up to the England rugby team."

Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice said that his party believes that the Prime Minister will not be able to pass his Brexit deal, and branded the Letwin Amendment as a "spoiler."

"Our calculations are that he probably just fails if he's allowed to even have a vote on his motion. We think the Letwin Amendment will probably just pass."

He went on to say: "The Letwin Amendment is a spoiler. It will force Boris to request an extension and the question then is what happens with the potential for a second referendum.

"I don't think Westminster has any idea how cross and angry the public will be."

Labour has confirmed that the party will back the Letwin amendment in the Commons.