Who is Oliver Letwin and what does his amendment mean for Brexit?

MPs vote to in favour of the former Tory MP’s proposal to delay decision on Johnson’s deal

Oliver Letwin was expelled from the Conservative Party in September
(Image credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Boris Johnson’s plan to pass his Brexit deal on Saturday was thwarted by an amendment to delay approval of the proposals “unless and until implementing legislation is passed”.

MPs voted in favour of the delay by 322 votes to 306, forcing another week of crunch Brexit decision-making, reports The Guardian.

The amendment was put forward by former Tory minister Oliver Letwin, who was expelled from the party by the prime minister in September.

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What is Letwin’s background?

As a Conservative opposition MP, Letwin served as shadow chancellor of the Exchequer under Michael Howard and as shadow home secretary under Iain Duncan Smith.

Following the Tory general election victory of 2010, Letwin became minister of state for government policy, before being promoted to chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and given overall responsibility for the Cabinet Office after the 2015 election.

He was briefly named minister for Brexit by David Cameron following the 2016 EU referendum, before new PM Theresa May called a halt to his stint in the Cabinet.

Letwin was one of 21 Tory MPs expelled from the Conservative Party last month for voting against Johnson. The rebel MPs backed an opposition motion to take control of parliamentary business away from the PM so that a bill could be introduced blocking no-deal.

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What is the purpose of his amendment?

The Letwin amendment withholds Commons approval of Johnson’s Brexit deal until the legislation that allows it to be implemented is passed.

The amendment was designed to close a potential loophole that could have resulted in a no-deal Brexit. If Johnson had passed his deal on Saturday and swerved the Benn Act’s requirement to ask for a Brexit extension, but then had failed to pass legislation implementing his deal before the Brexit deadline, the UK could have been forced out of the EU without a deal.

What does it mean for Brexit?

The amendment delaying approval of Johnson’s deal meant that on Saturday evening, the PM was forced to make a request to Brussels for a Brexit extension of Brussels.

It is now up to the EU to decide whether to grant the UK an extension. If it does, the UK will remain in the EU beyond the 31 October, but would be allowed to leave the bloc as soon as it passed a deal in Parliament.

Should MPs vote in favour of Johnson’s deal before the Halloween deadline, the UK will still leave the EU on that date.

Following his vote defeat, Johnson said No. 10 would introduce the legislation required to pass his deal this week. House of Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg added that the Government would attempt another vote on the PM’s deal on Monday.

Commons Speaker John Bercow said he would consider whether to allow the Government’s plans.

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