Hilary Benn: I Will Stop a No Deal Brexit

Justifying overturning the result of the referendum because he argues it will lower the rate of growth in the UK economy. Guido looks forward to Benn applying the same logic to his own party’s socialist policies…

Another Benn Coup Rejected after Commons Vote Tied

The Commons remarkably tied – the first time since votes over Maastricht 26 years ago – with MPs split 310-310 over whether to allow Hilary Benn to take over Parliament again next week. Because all the previous times have worked so well…

To the surprise of many, Bercow actually cast his deciding vote against the coup – as convention to back the ‘status quo’ option strictly dictated he should do. Bercow himself acknowledged the principle for the Speaker “not to create a majority that does not otherwise exist”. Brexit never ceases to surprise…

Hilary Benn Extends Parliamentary Coup Into Next Week

Fresh from tasting blood with a 27-vote majority in last night’s vote on their amendment to hijack Parliament, Hilary Benn and Oliver Letwin have now published their business motion to hold indicative votes tomorrow – as expected it’s their comrade-in-arms Bercow who will be deciding exact what MPs are allowed to express their “preferences” for tomorrow. Now the motion reveals reveals that Benn and Letwin will also be taking over Parliament next Monday as well.

It will not be the last time this happens. An unelected shadow Government of backbench MPs breaks the thread of democratic accountability with the public, they cannot be called to account at the Despatch Box in Parliament, they do not have to respond questions, FoI requests, and they cannot be held accountable as a coherent entity at the ballot box. The Remainer coup has begun…

How MPs are Plotting to Stop Brexit

Despite the second ‘meaningful vote’ not being for another week, scheming MPs have been getting their anti-Brexit amendments in early. The following amendments are all already tabled, although they may change between now and next week:

  • Corbyn: “all options on the table” amendment. Corbyn continues his vague policy towards Brexit with an amendment calling for the Government to give time for Parliament to vote on options aimed at preventing no deal, including a Labour-style “strong single market” deal or “legislating to hold a public vote on a deal or a proposition that has commanded the support of the majority of the House of Commons”. Heavily-qualified support for a second referendum that likely wouldn’t be binding on the Government in any case…
  • Cooper, Boles, Morgan, Grieve: “coup” amendment. Seeks to give an entirely arbitrary grouping of backbench MPs the power to take over the Parliamentary timetable and bring in a Bill that would force the Government to extend Article 50 if a deal is not agreed by the end of February. Literally a coup…
  • Benn: “indicative votes” amendment. Commits the Government to holding a series of so-called “indicative votes” – MPs would hold non-binding votes on a range of different Brexit scenarios. Likely generating more heat than light…
  • Grieve: “endless debates” amendment. Somewhat similar but more tedious, this attempts to create a slot for weekly six-and-a-half hour debates for MPs to debate a meaningless motion while adding their own amendments to it. The most pernicious aspects allowing a minority of 300 MPs to take over Parliamentary business have been removed. Grieve claims the debates won’t be used to try to force primary legislation through…
  • Reeves, Benn, Grieve: “two-year extension” amendment. Attempts to force the Government to seek a two-year extension to Article 50 if no deal is agreed by 26th February. Not going to happen, not least because the EU won’t agree…
  • Creasy, Nandy: “citizens’ assembly” amendment. Extends Article 50 and creates a “citizens’ assembly” of 250 people along with an “expert committee” appointed by Sarah Wollaston’s Liaison Committee to advise the Government how to proceed. Very Green Party…

The one amendment which hasn’t yet been tabled but could also be highly significant is some variation of Andrew Murrison’s from last week which Bercow refused to call. This is looking like the most likely route for the Government to try to get its own MPs and the DUP back onside by voting through the Withdrawal Agreement but only on the condition that the backstop is time limited. Would give the EU some tough choices to make…

Amendments Latest: Benn Backs Off, Murrison Moves Ahead

While most attention has understandably been focused on this evening’s main vote, a crucial sub-drama is playing out in the amendments which MPs will vote on first, assuming Bercow doesn’t go entirely rogue again. The two key amendments were Hilary Benn’s, which rejected both May’s deal and No Deal, and Tory MP Andrew Murrison’s, which insists on the Withdrawal Agreement being amended to specify that the backstop expires on 31 December 2021.

But Hilary Benn announced this morning that he was withdrawing his amendment, citing Bercow’s decision to alter Parliamentary procedure as one of the reasons his amendment was no longer necessary. The more immediate issue is that if his amendment narrowly passed, it would invalidate the subsequent meaningful vote, thus sparing the Government from a heavy defeat…

This leaves the Murrison amendment as the key one to watch. It has a weighty list of co-signatories, including Graham Brady, Damian Green and Rob Halfon, which strongly suggests Government support for the amendment. The Government may well accept the amendment in the hope that it limits the scale of their defeat on the meaningful vote tonight, then deal with the legal ramifications of it later…

UPDATE: Reportedly Business minister Claire Perry has been ringing round backbench colleagues pushing the Murrison amendment, suggesting at least an element of Number 10 co-ordination…

Raab: Expect Brexit Deal by November 21

The pound has jumped off the back of the news that Dominic Raab expects a Brexit deal to be “finalised” by 21st November. The news came buried in a letter from the Brexit Secretary to Hilary Benn, chair of the Exiting the EU Committee. Just three weeks time is quite optimistic… 

UPDATE: Awkwardly a DExEU spokesperson later said: “There is no set date for the negotiations to conclude. The 21st November was the date offered by the Chair of the Select Committee for the Secretary of State to give evidence.”

Pompous Benn Too Busy for Brexit Questions

The always pompous and unfailingly officious Hilary Benn was just too busy for any more questions on Brexit this morning, cutting off his Sky News interview after only a few minutes. No great loss…

EU: “Confidentiality Necessary to Protect Our Interests”

Sir Keir Starmer boarded the outrage bus to the Today programme studios this morning to accuse David Davis of contempt for not releasing unredacted versions of the government’s Brexit impact assessments. Do Labour really think this would help Britain’s negotiating position? They should take a look at how the EU handles such sensitive information on its own side. This is from the European Commission’s “Transparency in EU trade negotiations” document – it makes clear the EU would never release information that could undermine its position during a negotiation.

“A certain level of confidentiality is necessary to protect EU interests and to keep chances for a satisfactory outcome high. When entering into a game, no-one starts by revealing his entire strategy to his counterpart from the outset: this is also the case for the EU.”

Sir Keir says he only wants DExEU to hand the assessments over to the Brexit select committee for them to decide what should be published, and therefore this would not undermine our negotiating position. Well given Hilary Benn’s committee (presumably Seema Malhotra) has leaked DD’s letter to the Mirror before they even discussed it or published it on their website, that doesn’t bode well for the security of information handed to the committee. The Remainers on the committee clearly can’t be trusted not to leak the unredacted documents. Handing them sensitive information would be mad…

Frank Field On Hilary Benn’s Houses

Labour’s Brexit wars spill out into the open as tonight’s EU Withdrawal Bill debate kicks-off…

Frank Field on Hilary Benn

Frank Field to Hilary Benn in the chamber:

“I always bought my houses, I never inherited them.”

Leavers Walk Out of Brexit Committee Over Benn’s Highly Partisan Report

Leave-supporting members of the Brexit select committee walked out of a meeting this morning after Hilary Benn produced a report they found highly partisan and overly pessimistic. Last Wednesday Benn surprised committee members by revealing that he and the committee clerks were drawing up a report to be published on Friday this week, timed so Benn could get his name up in lights over the weekend. Guido is told there were no previous discussions with committee members about the report and no discussions about its conclusions.

Today Benn presented colleagues with his 150 page report. After an hour of talks this morning, Leave-supporting committee members decided that the report was so partisan, so gloomy and so pessimistic that there was no point trying to table amendments or seek changes. They were particularly disappointed that Benn had made no attempt to achieve balance or consensus among the committee, and that evidence from Ivan Rogers and representatives from Gibraltar was selectively quoted. There was no organised walkout, but after an hour of going round in circles the Brexit committee members decided to politely leave. They left the Remain committee members (who are obviously happy with the report) in the room.

Guido is told the Brexiteer committee members now see no other option but to publish a minority report. To be fair to the Leavers on the committee, they have worked with Benn and the Remainers on previous reports and tried to constructively seek a consensus. This was always going to be the problem with Benn being committee chair. Select committees are supposed to hold the government to account but also help them shape policy – highly partisan Hilary is just trying to obstruct the process…

Benn’s Brexit Committee Bunfight

Hilary Benn’s Brexit select committee has descended into its first inevitable bunfight after it published a report demanding a significant transition arrangement before we fully leave the EU. As Guido reported yesterday, Remainers want to use a ‘transition’ lasting several years to buy time and prevent a real Brexit. Predictably, the Remain majority Brexit select committee has suggested it wants the same. Karl McCartney, a Leave committee member, has broken ranks to blast his committee’s own report:

“I believe this Report is flawed in certain areas, which should not be a surprise given that the majority of the (mainly Labour and SNP) MPs elected to it voted for us to Remain… I entirely reject the Remain MPs’ calls in respect of transitional arrangements on trade and tariffs, nor do I accept some of the more emotive and negative language from the Remain side of the argument. I had hoped that a more collegiate view would have prevailed, but some of those representing the minority Parties are obviously not of the same opinion, and so this Select Committee seems to be determined to operate in a different way to others. These MPs, I fear, are seeking to thwart the democratic will of the 17½ million people who voted to Leave the European Union by taking part in the largest democratic vote our Country has had. Prolonged transitional arrangements are in neither the UK’s, nor indeed the EU’s, interests – they would merely prolong the uncertainty for businesses and everyone else.”

Change Britain, which has Brexit select committee member Michael Gove among its supporters, is also unimpressed. Gisela Stuart says:

“There are sensible practical arguments that can be made in favour of negotiating a transitional deal to give businesses time to prepare as we leave the EU. However, any such arrangements must be time limited and must not be used by those who refuse to accept the referendum result to keep the UK in the EU by the back door.”

A swift transitional period may be sensible, a prolonged delay is a Remain attempt to prevent a real Brexit…

Kate Hoey Challenges Benn For Brexit Select Committee

hoey

The Remain stitch up to get Hilary Benn in charge of the Brexit select committee has a challenger – Labour Leaver Kate Hoey is putting her name forward for the role. She is backed by other prominent Labour Brexiters including Gisela Stuart and John Mann, as well as Tories like Theresa Villiers, the SNP’s Alex Salmond and DUP’s Nigel Dodds. Tory MPs’ votes are crucial – do you really want a Remainer who wants to stay in the single market in charge of scrutiny of Brexit? Or a Leaver who will properly hold Theresa May to account…

Brexit Blockers Backing Benn

benn

Hilary Benn’s unopposed* bid for the chairmanship of the DexEU select committee is being backed by the Remainers who are trying to obstruct Brexit. Ed Miliband and Anna Soubry, members of the Open Britain group seeking to delay Article 50 and retain single market membership, have endorsed Benn for the role. As Guido has warned previously, Benn is an arch-Remainer – he believes we should stay in the single market and says immigration numbers will not come down. Select committees are supposed to hold ministers to account, not obstruct them. The likes of Soubry and Miliband backing him suggests the committee under his chairmanship will attempt to get in the way rather than scrutinise. This looks like a Remoaner stitch up of the Brexit select committee…

* He now has a challenger.

Brexit Select Committee Chair “Should Be a Brexiteer”

The chairman of the Brexit select committee will be a Labour MP and so far Hilary Benn is the only candidate. There are no challengers – yesterday Margaret Hodge told colleagues to let Benn take the job. There is however growing opposition from Labour Leavers. John Mann tells Guido: “It should be a Brexiteer”. Would he consider running? “We will all have to consider it,” Mann says of himself and fellow Labour Leavers. Remember, the Brexit committee chairman will be decided by a vote of all MPs. John Mann or Gisela Stuart would be a popular choice with Tory MPs who want to make sure the government delivers. Benn is an arch-Remainer, he believes we should stay in the single market and says immigration numbers will not come down. Select committees are supposed to hold ministers to account, not obstruct them. Benn is far from the best person to make sure Brexit means Brexit. Surely MPs should choose a Leaver if they want to hold May’s feet to the fire…

Labour MPs Love Theresa May As Well

THERESA MAY MOST IMPRESSIVE MPS

It’s not just Labour’s former advisers who like Theresa May – their MPs think she’s impressive too. Theresa May was deemed “most impressive parliamentarian” by no less than 35% of Labour MPs, putting her second on the leadership table only to be beaten by Cameron in an Ipsos MORI poll of members. While May was deemed impressive by more ministers, the ex-cabinet ministers sitting bitterly on the backbenches put Dave ahead in the overall stakes by just 1% – to 26%.

Labour’s strongest contender was unsurprisingly Hilary Benn, coming joint sixth with 6%, but was beaten to a top five place by Angus Robertson. Labour MPs went mostly unloved, with Tom Watson and Dan Jarvis gaining the support of just one MP each (possibly themselves?). One Conservative joker backed Corbyn for the title. If Labour MPs like May so much, why don’t they just…

Hilary Benn: Uncontrolled Immigration “Part of the Deal” of Voting Remain

Four times Andrew Neil asked Hilary Benn if immigration could be controlled inside the EU. Three times he failed to answer, before eventually admitting it couldn’t. He says uncontrolled immigration “is part of the deal…”

Via @liarpoliticians

Hilary Benn Keeping Quiet on Family Tax Avoidance

Labour MPs are not pulling punches on the tax affairs of David Cameron’s father, calling him “absolutely disgusting” despite there still being some dispute over the extent of any tax avoidance that actually took place. What do they have to say about another prominent politician’s father and his tax affairs?

When Tony Benn’s wife died, he took steps to immediately pass his assets onto his children to reduce their eventual inheritance tax burden. The kids reportedly took part ownership of the family home in Holland Park, which was then quickly sold for £4.1 million. He also placed Stansgate House and its estate in trust, another nifty inheritance tax avoidance measure. Hilary Benn and his siblings directed benefited from his father’s careful tax planning. No wonder the Shadow Foreign Secretary has yet to comment on Dave’s predicament…

Evan’s Mind on Big Ben

Boys Keep Spinning: Corbyn’s Today Programme Porkie

Jeremy Corbyn told the Today programme that he did not know which member of his team briefed the press that he intended to sack Hilary Benn: “I’m not sure where the briefing came from”. Seumas Milne is widely believed to be responsible for the first two anti-Benn briefings that appeared, in the Telegraph on Christmas Eve and in the Sindy three days later.[…] Read the rest

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