Scottish Daily Mail

Now I’ll vote for deal, says Letwin

- By Claire Ellicott Political Correspond­ent

SIR Oliver Letwin was forced to defend his role in delaying a meaningful Commons vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal yesterday – amid claims of ‘collusion’ with a leading barrister.

Sir Oliver’s amendment – to postpone approval of the Prime Minister’s deal until all the legislatio­n needed to turn it into law has passed – triggered a huge row after it was voted through on ‘Super Saturday’.

Critics claimed that it was another delaying tactic, designed to deny Mr Johnson the chance to show the deal had the backing of MPs before it begins its legislativ­e journey.

It was also alleged that Sir Oliver had been working on the amendment with Lord Pannick, a leading barrister who has inflicted several defeats on the Government.

Yesterday, the former Tory MP appeared to admit having received assistance from Lord Pannick, but claimed his motion was just an ‘insurance policy’ against a No Deal Brexit.

He also insisted that he would vote for the Prime Minister’s deal when it returns to the Commons this week.

In reports yesterday, Sir Oliver, who came under pressure to redraft or withdraw his amendment, had been accused of taking instructio­ns from Lord Pannick on the phone. The QC flatly denied it.

Asked on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show yesterday whether he had been ‘colluding with any foreign powers’, Sir Oliver replied: ‘No, I haven’t colluded with anybody at all. I have colluded with other MPs across party, which I know annoys some people but I think is a sensible way to do politics.’

He added: ‘I’ve colluded with the Lords, because that’s another part of our parliament, and I think that’s what politician­s should do. Work together. That’s what I call it, rather [than] colluding.’

Asked if Lord Pannick had helped draft the legislatio­n, he said: ‘Yes, we’ve had some of the best lawyers in the land who are in the House of Lords working for us – without being paid by anybody I may say, purely pro bono, and I’m extremely grateful to them.

‘When you’re putting forward legislatio­n it should be proper profession­al legislatio­n that really first-class lawyers have looked at.’

Sir Oliver insisted he was not trying to wreck Brexit, but was merely trying to prevent No Deal by accident.

On Saturday, MPs voted by 322 to 306 to approve his amendment, which withholds Parliament’s approval of the Brexit deal until all associated legislatio­n has been passed.

The passing of the amended motion triggered the Benn Act which required the Prime Minister to request an Article 50 extension.

Defending his actions, Sir Oliver said: ‘Yesterday wasn’t about the deal, despite all the hype. Yesterday was about the question whether the Benn Act will still be effective and whether we’ll get an extension, if for any reason we haven’t got the deal completed by October 31.

‘That I felt, and have continued to feel, is very important. We need the safeguard, the insurance policy that if we don’t get this passed by October 31 we don’t just crash out.

‘That was what yesterday was about. Next week is about the deal and the bill, I’ll vote for the deal, I’ll vote for the bill.’ Asked about those who signed up to his amendment – including anti-Brexit campaigner­s such as Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson – he said: ‘Sometimes you have to ally yourself with some strange people’.

But he insisted he would vote for ‘any deal’ and will put forward no further amendments.

‘There will be no more Oliver Letwin amendments next week,’ he said. ‘I’m absolutely behind the Government now.

‘As long as they continue with this bill, continue with the deal, I will support it.

‘I will vote for it – as I did with Theresa May three times.’

‘I’m absolutely behind the Government now’

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