Kinnock amendment to Benn Bill passes possibly by mistake

Sienna Rodgers

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock’s amendment to the Benn Bill has passed unexpectedly after no division was called because no Conservative tellers for the ‘Noes’ presented themselves.

Its approval means the piece of legislation designed to block an October 31st no deal Brexit will also require the Prime Minister to state that the reason for requesting an extension from the EU is to pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

Under the Benn Bill, the Prime Minister would be compelled to request another Brexit delay until January 31st if he has not passed a deal or secured approval for no deal from parliament.

The ‘WAB’ was Theresa May’s final offer to MPs, which was never put to parliament for a vote but included some of the concessions that Labour had been seeking from the government – including a workers’ rights bill and parliamentary time for a vote on a confirmatory referendum.

Following the passing of the bill with Kinnock’s amendment, the MP for Aberavon said “Given that the House has now approved the bill as amended, could I press the government to publish the WAB which really does require the proper and robust discussion.”

It remains unclear whether the amendment passing without a division was a mistake or the government intentionally declined to put up tellers in order to ‘wreck’ the whole bill.

Channel 4’s Gary Gibbon says the government likely “pulled a fast one” and “torpedoed the bill”. However, the amendment may be “unpicked at a later stage”.

Update, 12am.
 Stephen Kinnock commented: “I’m very pleased that we won the vote tonight, albeit in peculiar circumstances! I would like to take this opportunity to thank my colleagues for their support.

“My amendment to the Bill makes clear that passing a version of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB) must now be the purpose of the extension request that the Prime Minister will be legally obliged to make, once the Bill has passed the Lords and received Royal Assent.

“The WAB is a very different proposition to the so-called ‘blind Brexit’ that came before it. The WAB was the product of cross-party talks and it included a number of commitments and compromises which clarified the nature of the future relationship. These included a Bill on workers’ rights, guarantees on environmental standards, a vote on customs options, a role for parliament in future negotiations, and even a vote at Committee Stage on whether to put the deal to a confirmatory public vote.

“It is a travesty that parliament has yet to be given the opportunity to debate or vote on the WAB. My amendment paves the way to us finally being able to right that wrong.

“It is therefore abundantly clear than the government must now urgently publish and immediately table the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in the form that was available to ministers on 21 May 2019, thus finally providing a realistic basis for preventing a catastrophic no-deal crash-out, and a vehicle for breaking the deadlock.”

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