What is the Letwin amendment — and could it really change everything?

The measure has been proposed by Oliver Letwin, an MP who was kicked out of the parliamentary Conservative Party last month when he supported legislation aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit, known as the Benn Act.

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Letwin’s amendment, which enjoys the support of opposition parties, says the House of Commons would “withhold support” from Johnson’s plan until all of the legislation required to implement the bill is passed by Parliament as well.

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It Letwin’s amendment passes, the Benn Act would come into play and Johnson would be forced to write to the European Commission and request a Brexit extension until January 31.

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That doesn’t mean Johnson’s deal is dead. It just means that all the legislation that enacts the deal must be approved in Parliament first.

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Downing Street indicated on Saturday that it would begin that process straight away. The government would introduce the Withdrawal Agreement bill (WAB) — the legislation that puts Johnson’s Brexit deal into law — to the House of Commons next week, a senior government source told CNN.

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Nevertheless the government is deeply frustrated by the Letwin amendment, as it deprives Johnson of a straight up-and-down vote on his deal. “A vote for Letwin means MPs voting to render the entire day, that they demanded, meaningless,” the source told CNN.

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Nick Boles, another former Conservative MP who co-signed the amendment, suggested a vote in favor of the amendment could be read as a political indication of whether the House would eventually support the deal, even though it would not be a legal endorsement. But that’s not necessarily the case — Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has also signed the amendment, despite being opposed to Brexit altogether.

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The amendment is signed by members of the three main political parties, indicating that it enjoys wide support. But Downing Street is doing its level best to kill off the Letwin amendment. The vote could be tight.

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