Thu, 14 Mar 2019
RICHARD Benyon rebelled against his party line last night after the Government was forced to whip its own MPs into voting against its own motion.
The Government had proposed a motion to not leave the EU without a deal on March 29, but included the option of a no-deal Brexit at a later time.
But before the main vote, MPs backed an amendment to reject the UK leaving without a deal under any circumstances by a majority of four. Mr Benyon was absent from the vote.
However, the vote is not legally binding as the UK could still leave without a deal on March 29.
MPs then voted down the Malthouse compromise, proposed by North West Hampshire MP Kit Malthouse, to delay Brexit until May 22 to enable a managed no-deal Brexit.
Again, Mr Benyon was absent from the vote.
The results meant that the Government's proposal had to be changed to include no deal under any circumstances, with Conservative MPs being whipped into voting against the motion.
Mr Benyon defied the party whip and voted for the amended motion.
Reading West MP Alok Sharma, Mr Malthouse and Wokingham MP Sir John Redwood voted against the amended motion.
Explaining his reasons, Mr Benyon said: "I have tried to be consistent throughout. I will continue to vote for the Prime Minister's deal at every opportunity I get.
"I am respecting the result of the referendum, but the referendum did not ask us whether we wanted to leave with or without a deal.
"Leaving without a deal would be very damaging to my constituency, so I was not happy with the Government's amendment last night because I thought it was equivocal.
"I voted to make it absolutely clear so that we would not be leaving without a deal and putting the needs of my constituency first.
"I think that the Government amendment would have been seen from both directions. That's not what the Prime Minister said the previous night and therefore I voted the way I did."
When asked why he abstained from the Malthouse compromise, he said: "I am a good friend and admirer of Kit Malthouse but I don't think his option will work because the EU has said it won't work, therefore I was not going to support it and I didn't want to vote against it as I think Kit has done a good job of bringing people across Parliament together.
"It came down to the Government motion as amended. I couldn't vote against that and I couldn't vote against him and his amendment, which meant voting against my party whip."
MPs will vote today on whether to extend Article 50 past March 29.
Theresa May has indicated that she will try and push her twice-defeated deal through the Commons again, although an amendment has been tabled to stop this.
Mr Benyon said: "I will continue to support the Prime Minister leaving with a deal. If that comes to a vote next week then I will totally support it.
"I think the deal is perfectly good enough to all those who voted to leave the EU and those, who like me, voted to remain."
But when asked whether he should back his remain-voting constituency, Mr Benyon said: "I am a democrat. It was a national referendum and my side lost.
"Many, many more constituencies voted leave than remain. On that basis we would have left with the hardest possible Brexit. People should be careful about what they wish for.
"I am responding as best I can by supporting the result of the national referendum and that we leave sensibly with a deal."