Brexit: What does the Letwin Amendment mean for Boris Johnson's deal?

19 October 2019, 08:33

The Prime Minister will face a vote in the Commons later
The Prime Minister will face a vote in the Commons later. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

As the Prime Minister tries to get MPs to unite and approve his Brexit deal on Saturday, ex-Tory Sir Oliver Letwin is hoping to scupper Boris Johnson's plans.

The former Conservative MP for West Dorset has put forward an amendment which would mean the Prime Minister's deal could not be approved by Parliament until relevant withdrawal legislation becomes law.

The Letwin amendment would withhold approval of Mr Johnson's deal, until the legislation to enact it was 'safely passed' - this means the Benn Act would be automatically activated, meaning the Prime Minister would be forced to request a further extension to the Brexit deadline.

Sir Oliver has said he wants to make sure Britain does not leave without a deal by mistake.

"My aim is to ensure that Boris' deal succeeds, but that we have an insurance policy which prevents the UK from crashing out on 31 October by mistake if something goes wrong during the passage of the implementing legislation," he said.

LBC's political editor Theo Usherwood said that the amendment could "allow MPs to amend the Withdrawal Agreement later and tell Boris Johnson that they want Brexit to look softer."

On Saturday the Commons Speaker informed the house he had selected the amendment, which looks likely to pass with Labour and other opposition parties set to back it, and all 21 former Tory party rebels backing it too.

Tory MP Damian Collins tweeted: "The Letwin amendment is another of those Brexit ideas which is too clever by half. If it passes it effectively renders today's Saturday sitting of parliament meaningless, at a time when the country and the EU needs to know whether parliament accepts the new withdrawal deal or not."

With the main vote expected to start at around 2:30pm on Saturday, the Letwin amendment will be voted on before.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the party would look at whether or not to back the amendment.

He said: "It is a very interesting amendment.

"We are going to look at that very closely, and examine it.

"It does have the merit of pointing out that this would withhold approval of the Commons from the Government's plans.

"So, we haven't made any final decision on that, we will meet later and discuss as a parliamentary group... tactics."

If the amendment goes through, the government will be forced to ask the European Union for an extension to the Halloween Brexit deadline, in line with the Benn Act.