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Brexit: DUP MPs help Letwin amendment over the line to force Boris Johnson to seek extension with EU

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: "I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so."

Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

MPs have voted for an amendment to force the Prime Minister to seek an extension to Brexit, inflicting an embarrassing defeat on Boris Johnson.

The amendment by rebel MP Sir Oliver Letwin withholds approval of Mr Johnson's deal until the legislation to enact it is safely passed by Parliament, triggering the Benn Act at 11pm.

MPs passed the amendment by 322 to 306, backing the move to delay Brexit until the Withdrawal Agreement Bill becomes law.

The amendment was due to be followed by a vote on the main government motion - whether or not to back the new deal. But the motion was amended because of the successful Letwin vote and the vote didn't take place.

A vote on a cross-party amendment on preventing a no-deal and holding a second referendum was also dropped.

The DUP's 10 MPs voted for the Letwin amendment, with DUP Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson earlier saying that his party will use the extension to seek changes to the Brexit deal.  Independent unionist MP for North Down, Lady Sylvia Hermon, also voted for the amendment, meaning all 11 sitting MPs from Northern Ireland crucially backed the move.

DUP MP Nigel Dodds said: "This decision will give further time for detailed consideration of the bill when it comes forward. It will also give an opportunity to consider in detail whenever amendments come forward. It has the effect of not approving this deal today.

"We will, of course, examine all details of the bill and all amendments in light of our overriding concern about the constitutional, economic integrity of the union.

"That is our priority, it will remain our priority in the days ahead and that will be the basis that we will now proceed in a timely and sensible manner."

DUP East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson told Sky News: "I don't believe that the extension needs to be for very long.

"I believe that this deal can be changed sufficiently to get a quick result.

"We will not be voting for a deal which separates Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom.

"The shorter the extension the better. The whole point of the extension should be to quickly undo the damage which this deal does to the union.

"It could be done by Monday if there was a will."

The Prime Minister said he would press ahead and introduce legislation needed to implement his agreement in Parliament next week.

Mr Johnson said: "I will not negotiate a delay with the EU and neither does the law compel me to do so."

He added: "Further delay would be bad for this country, bad for our EU and bad for democracy. So next week the Government will introduce the legislation needed for us to leave the EU with our new deal on October 31st and I hope that our EU colleagues and friends will not be attracted as the benches opposite are, or rather I should say the front bench, by delay."

Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg later told MPs there will be a vote on the deal on Monday.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission said: "The European Commission takes note of the vote in the House of Commons today on the so-called Letwin amendment meaning that the withdrawal agreement itself was not put to a vote today. It will be for the UK government to inform us about the next steps as soon as possible."

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