Jacob Rees-Mogg shuts down Hilary Benn’s Brexit committee in final hammer blow to Remainer
Brexit: Hilary Benn says he doesn't give Johnson any credit
The Leader of the House of Commons has rejected a request by the Labour MP to extend the life of the committee until June. Mr Benn had called the Future Relationship with the European Union committee to be allowed to sit for a further six months to scrutinise the EU trade agreement and the first months of the new relationship.
However, Mr Rees-Mogg has said the Government wants the group to stop meeting after its current cut-off date of January 16.
In a letter, the Tory MP said: “There will be plenty of opportunities for questions, statements and debates, as well as the detailed analysis of the House select committees in the months ahead.
“Whilst this is ultimately a matter for the House, it is the view of the Government that your Committee’s work should come to an end in line with the current temporary Standing Orders, which were agreed by the House.”
The House of Commons appoints select committees and is responsible for determining their end date.
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Usually the Leader of the House asks MPs to vote on a motion to approve committees, but the letter, seen by the political blog Guido, indicates Mr Rees-Mogg has no intention of putting forward a motion extending the life of the Brexit committee.
Mr Benn has chaired the committee since its creation in October 2016, having previously held the position go Shadow Foreign Secretary during the EU referendum, promoting Labour’s position of remaining in the Brussels bloc.
As chair of the committee he was also been accused of attempting to sabotage the Government’s attempts to leave the EU.
In 2019 he introduced a Bill to the House of Commons – dubbed the Benn Act – that would force the Prime Minister to ask for a Brexit extension beyond October 31 if MPs had not voted in favour of a withdrawal agreement.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson had insisted there should be no more delays to the Brexit process and the UK should leave the EU on October 31 no matter what.
The Bill was approved by MPs and Mr Johnson was forced to send a letter to Brussels asking for a delay to leaving the EU.
The bloc agreed the new deadline of January 31 2020, blocking the UK’s exit by a further three months. Britain had originally been due to leave the EU on March 31 2019.
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Critics argued Mr Benn’s actions weakened the Government’s negotiating hand by not setting a firm deadline by which a deal would have to be agreed.
He was also critical of a no deal outcome to trade negotiations which the Government completed with the EU last month.
The Prime Minister said the UK would “prosper mightily” even if a deal was not agreed and Britain traded with the EU on Australia-styled terms.
He said: “If we have to have an Australia-style deal, an Australia-style solution, then that is what we will achieve, and we will prosper mightily one way or the other.”
However, Mr Benn said not negotiating a trade pact would have been the “biggest failure of statecraft in recent memory”.
He added: “It is in nobody’s interest that there is no-deal.”
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