Tue, 03 Sept 2019
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has said he will "do the right thing" as MPs face a crucial vote tonight on stopping a no-deal Brexit.
However, the Conservative MP has told Newburytoday that he is still undecided on how he will vote.
Mr Benyon met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier today, as rebel Conservative MPs have tabled a motion that could delay Brexit until January 31, unless MPs approve a new deal, or vote in favour of no-deal by October 19.
Mr Benyon said the meeting had been "quite full on" and one he wouldn't forget.
He said: "It was very passionate. The Prime Minister sought to make it clear to us that he was very much working for a deal and that he thinks a deal is possible and by taking no-deal off the table we might make life more difficult for him in achieving that.
"That goes against the concerns that many of us have about what no-deal would actually mean for our constituents. Is he being correct and what are the risks involved here?
"These are things that are weighing on my mind. In the 25 years or so I have been in politics I have never had a problem on making my mind up but it's so finely balanced and I'm going to listen accordingly."
The MP tweeted earlier today
I have been off the airwaves for a good reason. I admit to being on the ‘horns of a dilemma’. Will this week’s votes make it harder or easier for PM to get the deal I am convinced he wants? I will do what I think is right regardless of any consequences for me— Richard Benyon (@RichardBenyonMP) September 3, 2019
When asked what his dilemma was, Mr Benyon said: "The dilemma is if I vote for this measure today, does it make it harder for Boris to get a deal in Europe because then those in Europe will believe that parliament won't let him take no deal off the table, or do I believe that this is the last moment to ensure that Britain does not leave without a deal and if I miss this opportunity and the negotiations go wrong we could be in a situation where my constituents could be massively disadvantaged?"
Conservative MPs intending to rebel against the Government have been threatened with deselection from the party and expulsion from standing in a future election, which could be on October 14 if tonight's vote succeeds.
When asked if he had been threatened with deselection, Mr Benyon said: "It's clear that any MPs who vote for this will have the party whip taken away from them. It's not a factor. That's not something I'm thinking about at the moment. No one said it's going to be easy but we will see what happens.
"It's a very close call. Being threatened with deselection has no effect on my decision making. I'm trying to make a decision on what I think is right.
"This is nothing to do with Richard Benyon's future. This is everything to do with my constituency and the country's future. That sounds pompous, but it's absolutely true.
"If the vote goes through tonight we may well have a general election and any scenario could come out of that."
The pre-referendum Remain-backing MP has been a staunch opponent of no-deal. When asked what had changed recently, Mr Benyon said "what's changed is because we have the 31st October date. I want us to leave on the 31st but I want us to leave with a deal."
Speaking on his meeting with the PM, Mr Benyon said: "He told us all that was going on and responding to Chancellor Merkel and President Macron. It seemed quite favourable but the Government has set a fairly high bar in wanting to get rid of the backstop.
"I think there's a way forward to let the backstop have a much clearer end date and to have a proper trading relationship with the EU and that's what I'm hoping he will achieve."
A former Defra minister who had negotiated fishing quotas with the EU, Mr Benyon said: "My experience of negotiating in Brussels is it's always darkest before the dawn and something will always come at the last minute."