NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has hit back at claims that he puts party loyalty ahead of his own beliefs after voting in favour of a bill which will determine the date the UK leaves the EU.
Prime Minister Theresa May asked for cross-party approval of a clause in the EU Withdrawal Bill that states the UK will exit the European Union on March 29, 2019, at 11pm London time.
Fifteen Conservatives voted against and were subsequently labelled ‘Brexit mutineers’ in a controversial article published on the front page of The Daily Telegraph last week – but Mr Benyon wasn’t one of them.
That prompted Newbury Green Party’s David Marsh to tweet: “Sadly our once pro-remain MP @RichardBenyonMP does not appear but then he puts loyalty to the party before what he actually believes in.”
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News in response, Mr Benyon said: “I’m absolutely determined to respect the referendum result.
“I think most of my constituents, whether they voted remain or leave, recognise there are negotiations going on and want us [the Government] to get on with it.
“They don’t want an MP who runs a constant guerrilla campaign to undermine the result of the referendum.
“I have never been afraid to vote against my own party.
“It amuses me that people think I’m just a toady who wants a job within the Government.
“I don’t want a job, I’m happy on the backbenches.”
Mr Benyon said he, alongside Zack Goldsmith and Oliver Letwin, spent “many hours” with the secretary of state working on amendments to the original bill.
He added: “There are some aspects with it [the bill] that I’m not happy with and I know the Government is making some changes.”
Mr Benyon said he voted against some of the amendments because he “didn’t think it was the right way forward”, but added: “I did not want to prevent the bill going through, but I wanted to improve it.”
He said that all 15 Conservatives who voted against the amendment, with the exception of Ken Clarke, voted in favour of the second bill.
Speaking about The Daily Telegraph’s front page, Mr Benyon said: “There is a big difference between mutiny and scrutiny.
“The front page of The Daily Telegraph was actually offensive. They made out these people [the 15] were somehow trying to thwart the will of the people and the referendum result.
“I work with many of them.
“I think some of them are wrong; I think most of them are right from where they start from.
“They have chosen one route, to vote against.
“I have chosen another, to work behind the scenes with ministers – that’s just the way I prefer to get things done.
“An MP is elected to use their judgement, and my judgement was I didn’t want to prevent the bill going through.
“This is a technical bill and if it doesn’t pass, chaos ensues.”