St Helens MPs slam government following latest Brexit debate

St Helens MP Marie Rimmer has accused the government of disregarding the rules of the House
St Helens MP Marie Rimmer has accused the government of disregarding the rules of the House

St Helens MP Marie Rimmer has accused the government of “disregarding the rules of the House” following a tense Brexit debate in the Commons.

Sitting in the House of Commons for the first time on a Saturday since the Falklands War, MPs had been expected to vote on Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, with the Prime Minister urging politicians across the house to “come together”.

However, an amendment tabled by a cross-party group of MPs led by Sir Oliver Letwin was passed by the House and subsequently pushed the planned ‘meaningful vote’ on the new Brexit deal to Monday of next week.

Sir Oliver said the aim of his amendment was to keep in place the “insurance policy” provided by the Benn act, a new law passed by MPs last month.

The Letwin amendment was backed by a group ex-Tory rebels including former Chancellor Philip Hammond and withholds approval of the Brexit deal until the legislation to enact it is passed.

But crucially it triggers the Benn Act, a new law passed by MPs last month that compels the Prime Minister to request a further extension to article 50 from the EU if a deal cannot be agreed by October 31.

The government lost the vote by 322 votes to 306, with St Helens Labour MPs Marie Rimmer and Conor McGinn both voting for the amendment.

Key to the Letwin amendment’s victory was the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist party (DUP), which had previously rejected the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal.

The amendment was also backed by ten ex-Tory rebels now sitting as independents including former Chancellor Philip Hammond and former Work and Pensions Secretary David Gauke.

Following the defeat, Mr Johnson insisted he will not negotiate a delay with the EU, claiming the law does not “compel” him to do so.

The Prime Minister said he will press ahead with tabling Brexit legislation next week to “get Brexit done by October 31”.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Rimmer hit out at Mr Johnson’s government.

“Once again the government has disregarded the rules of the House,” Ms Rimmer said.

“The amendment was agreed and the amended motion was agreed.

“The Prime Minister advised the Commons he would not be asking for an extension and we would be leaving the EU on October 31 and left the chamber.”

Ms Rimmer also slammed Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg for “breaking normal procedure and walking out of the chamber”.

Mr Rees-Mogg had informed MPs they will debate a motion relating to section 13 1(b) of the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018.

Section 13 1(b) of the European Union Withdrawal Act 2018 requires that MPs have a “meaningful vote” on any Brexit deal in order for it to be ratified.

Ms Rimmer said: “The government was defeated in its attempt to stifle Parliament’s ability to scrutinise Boris Johnson’s deal and its response was to ambush the House during points of order.

“Reese-Mogg, the Leader of the House, said the business on Monday would be 13 1 (b), breaking normal procedure and walking out of the chamber.

“For the leader of the House to leave the chamber to avoid scrutiny is unacceptable.

“This prevents the House from debating important aspects of the Queen’s Speech and shows just how little respect the government has for the rules of our democracy.

“It also forcing the House to debate on the same issue it has already decided upon.

“How is it acceptable for the government to ask Parliament the same question again and again, but not give the people the opportunity to have their say?

“The only way forward is to put this issue back to the people so we can get back to passing legislation to help the people of our nation and this community.”

Speaking on Facebook, St Helens North MP Conor McGinn said the Prime Minister will now have to bring back detailed proposals to Parliament, which can be “properly scrutinised and amended”.

“I understand the frustrations of many people with what seems like endless Westminster debates and procedure,” Mr McGinn said.

“But voting to let this government diminish workers’ rights and cost jobs, hurt business and industry, rip-up environmental protections and allow a reduction in consumer rights would be bad for St Helens North, the North West and the country as a whole.

“Labour and trade union MPs like me are simply not prepared to trust a government that is even more right-wing than Mrs Thatcher’s with the future of the communities and people we represent.

“The consequences of that would be catastrophic for families, workers, businesses and people in St Helens borough and places like it across the country.

“I will be back in the House of Commons on Monday, continuing to hold the government to account, scrutinising this deal and trying to find a way forward that can resolve this and bring the country together.”