Wed, 04 Sept 2019
NEWBURY MP Richard Benyon has said his political future is uncertain after he rebelled against the Government in a crucial Brexit vote.
Mr Benyon joined 328 MPs, 21 of them Conservative, in a Government defeat to allow MPs to take control of parliamentary business, the first step towards delaying a no-deal Brexit.
The Conservative MP denied he was now an independent, saying: “I’m still on the Conservative benches and still support the Government’s agenda.”
He also ruled out standing as an independent candidate in Newbury should he be excluded from standing as a Conservative.
MPs are set to vote today on a motion that could delay Brexit again, possibly until January 31, 2020.
Mr Benyon said he had been in “a state of turmoil” during the build-up to the crucial vote, being a party loyalist and a staunch opponent of no deal. But ultimately he said he could not support the Government in good conscience.
Speaking to the Newbury Weekly News yesterday (Wednesday), Mr Benyon said he was absolutely convinced that a no-deal Brexit “would not particularly hurt people like me, but it would have a huge impact on those who are least able to cope and that’s what’s been at the heart of my thinking”.
He said: “I have spent a lot of time talking to businesses, civil servants, ministers and others and I fear that if we were to crash out with no deal, not only would there be economic consequences, but the union of this country would fall apart.”
Mr Benyon and other Tory rebels met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday to hear his plans for securing a deal.
But Mr Benyon said: “I had an hour with the Prime Minister. I can’t say that he and his team convinced us that there was a serious attempt to land a deal. I think the PM wants to achieve that, but I think some of those around him don’t.”
Following his revolt, Mr Benyon said that the chief whip had phoned him to say that the party whip had been withdrawn.
With the chances of a general election increasing, Mr Benyon said he would stand again in Newbury if his party would let him.
He said: “I don’t know whether it will be possible for me to stand in Newbury. I have had lots of nice messages and some from those who are disappointed with how I voted.
“Now we have to find out if there’s going to be an election. I may get off the parliamentary naughty step in time.”
He said that the West Berkshire Conservative Association would have to decide on backing him for another campaign.
“I wouldn’t want to do it unless I had the confidence of members,” Mr Benyon said. “I’m so lucky to have officers of the association who have been so supportive.”
And he said he would not stand as an independent if he was barred from standing as a Conservative.
“I certainly won’t stand against a Conservative candidate in Newbury,” he said. “I owe so much to my association in Newbury. They are a decent group of people. I feel that would be wrong.
“I still want to stand as the Conservative candidate for Newbury. If that’s not possible so be it. I knew with brutal clarity what I was doing and the consequences and I bear nobody any rancour about what has happened.”
Mr Benyon said that he had seen some of the Yellow Hammer documents – emergency plans for no deal – and he had spoken with business constituents.
He said: “I’m aware of the security implications of no deal and I know of other factors.
“I have gone into this with my eyes open. I completely understand those that want to get this done and I also have a duty to immerse myself in the detail.
“I have done that and I have to say that in all conscience I can’t just let us career towards that conclusion without making a stand.
“I have to do that at a considerable risk to my political future.”
The West Berkshire Conservative Association has been approached for comment.