Bexhill MP says ‘I’d be fired’ if he votes against government whip to extend Article 50

Huw Merriman MP
Huw Merriman MP

Bexhill and Battle MP Huw Merriman has said he would be ‘fired’ from his role on government’s payroll if he was whipped to vote for an extension to Article 50.

MPs will be voting on whether to request an extension to Article 50 – the legal mechanism for leaving the European Union – in the House of Commons later this evening.

However, Mr Merriman told BBC Radio 5 Live he may be forced to break a possible party whip because an extension to Article 50 would go against government policy.

He said: “We have been talking and talking that we will leave at the end of March, we have to get on with it. It’s either with a deal – which I hope it will be – or it’s with no deal.

“I do think, the closer we get to that date, the likelihood is so many of those Remainers will end up voting for the deal because they are just absolutely against leaving with no deal so they’ll do it through gritted teeth.

“Tactically, it would be slightly bonkers to extend that time because it looks like crunch time is about to occur so are we extending crunch time?

“The difficulty for me is that I’m what’s called payroll so I am required to support the government view and actually if I break the whip I lose my position.”

Asked by Anna Foster whether he would break a possible party whip, Mr Merriman said: “I will do what I think is the right thing for my constituents and the party. Effectively, I would be voting for a continuation of government policy which has always been to leave at the end of March.

“So actually, I’d be fired for being consistent with government policy which I feel a bit disappointed by.”

The government said there can be a delay to Brexit, or a potentially longer one, if MPs back Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement by March 20.

If MPs vote for an extension to Article 50, all other 27 European Union nations would have to agree for it to happen.

How did Mr Merriman vote on Wednesday?

On Wednesday, MPs voted on two amendments before a government amendment ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

Mr Merriman voted against Yvette Cooper’s amendment ruling out no-deal Brexit at any time which passed by four votes.

He also voted against a Malthouse Compromise amendment to delay Brexit until May 22 and then leave the EU without a full agreement in place, which failed.

Thirdly, Mr Merriman voted against the government’s amended motion ruling out a no-deal Brexit.

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