Wed, 03 Apr 2019
Richard Benyon - Conservative
RICHARD Benyon has said that the Conservative Party must bury its fears of a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn and support the Prime Minister’s attempts to work with the opposition to find a Brexit solution.
With the date of the UK leaving the EU on March 29 being missed, Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement not finding support for a third time, and MPs failing to find a preferred solution to Brexit, the PM has said that she will talk with the Labour leader to reach an agreement.
A short extension of Brexit has been agreed until April 12, and the UK will leave without a deal on that date unless another option is taken forward.
Monday night saw MPs vote on four Brexit alternatives, a Customs Union, Common Market 2.0, a confirmatory referendum and parliamentary supremacy – but none found a majority.
Mr Benyon voted for Common Market 2.0, which would mean remaining in the European Single Market and seeking a temporary customs union with the EU.
He also voted for seeking a UK-wide Customs Union with the EU.
The cabinet voted against delaying Brexit during a marathon meeting on Tuesday, but Mrs May is now seeking to negotiate with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to “break the logjam” in Parliament.
Speaking on the latest twist, Mr Benyon said: “She has come up with a proposal which involves working with Labour and finding something Parliament can live with, which may involve Britain staying in a customs arrangement with the EU. I am keen to give her the opportunity to follow this through until the third week of May to see if we can land this.”
The Newbury MP said that Labour and the Conservatives had stood on a manifesto to respect the result of the referendum and that he believed it was “perfectly in our power” to work on.
“We will see what comes of it,” Mr Benyon said. “There are different views in the Conservative Party, Labour, families in West Berkshire... it’s an issue that has split the country down the middle.
“No party has a majority in Parliament. She has tried to work with Labour and reached out to others to try and find a way forward but this is different; this is reaching out to the main opposition party to try and find a way forward and to leave with a deal.
“I still remain hopeful that it could pass with a couple of tweaks that would bring more Labour MPs across and placate some in my own party, and the DUP who voted against it, but the speaker is not being helpful in making sure that would happen.”
Mrs May’s decision to talk with Mr Corbyn has angered some Conservative Brexiteers, who see the move as giving Labour a greater say in the process and heading towards a softer Brexit.
Mr Benyon said it was normal to speak with the opposition on certain issues.
“The idea of Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister is a horrendous prospect and would set us back decades,” he said.
“The country is demanding that politicians work together and we have got to bury our worries about economic vandalism and the bizarre, extremist views that he and those around him have to find a solution to this problem.”
The political drama of Monday night saw Nick Boles MP resign from the Conservative Party in the Commons, saying that his party had refused to compromise.
When asked whether there would be further splits among the Conservatives, Mr Benyon said: “My party has been split on Europe for most of my life.
“He [Nick Boles] was brought up in Englefield and is a very close personal friend but I think there’s going to be a leadership battle and I regret that he will no longer be eligible to take part in that as I will as a backbencher... are there going to be more? I don’t know, I hope not.”
On the prospect of a general election, Mr Benyon said: “It’s got to be a possibility. I don’t think people want an election. I don’t think Labour want it or we want it. People just want politicians to get on with it and to resolve this matter.”