Letwin amendment proposed to close loophole that could lead to no-deal

PUBLISHED: 16:33 18 October 2019 | UPDATED: 16:33 18 October 2019

Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons. (PA Wire/PA Images)

Boris Johnson speaks in the House of Commons. (PA Wire/PA Images)

PA Wire/PA Images

A new amendment to the Benn Act has been tabled by MP Oliver Letwin that seeks to close a possible loophole to ensure that the UK does not crash out of the EU without a deal.

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Letwin's amendment aims to close all routes to a no-deal Brexit by requiring Boris Johnson's deal to have passed fully through all voting and implementation stages - and not just Saturday's Commons vote - before the Benn Act is considered to be satisfied.

Under the Benn Act, the prime minister must seek an extension to Article 50 if his deal with the EU is not passed by MPs and Lords by October 19.

But there is further legislation associated with the deal - such as Monday's Withdrawal Agreement Bill - that would still need approval after Saturday's vote.

The amendment changes the wording of the motion to say "this House has considered the matter but withholds approval unless and until implementing legislation is passed".

Former Conservative MP Stephen Hammond, who had the whip removed in his efforts to prevent a no-deal Brexit, said: "What it says is that Brexit doesn't happen until all stages of the implementation bill are passed.

"What it is born out of is the concern that someone might choose to vote for tomorrow's deal, thereby satisfying the Benn Act, and then choose to do something either by accident or by design which frustrates the implementation bill and then there is a possibility of us leaving the European Union without a deal."

It effectively turns Saturday's vote into more of an indication of political will than a legally binding commitment to Johnson's deal.

The move from anti-no-deal MPs is an indication of how little trust there is between different factions of parliamentarians at this stage of the Brexit process.

Letwin's idea is one of three amendments that have been proposed to the bill, but is the one most likely to be selected by the speaker of the house on the upcoming 'super Saturday' in parliament.

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