Hilary Benn accused of 'bias' over Brexit by Andrea Jenkyns

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Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn has been accused of “bias” and dominating the questioning of Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay by a fellow Yorkshire MP.

Mr Barclay was speaking to the Exiting the European Union Committee of MPs, which Mr Benn chairs, this morning about "the progress of the UK's negotiations on EU withdrawal".

But Mr Benn’s questioning was interrupted by Conservative MP for South Thanet Craig Mackinlay who said: “I’m just wondering what we’re doing here? You’ve had the floor now for 20 minutes, and I doubt there’s any other member who will have the floor for 20 minutes during this discussion this morning and I would welcome the opportunity for others to speak.”

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And Andrea Jenkyns, Tory MP for Morley and Outwood, added: “With respect you are rather bias because you’re pushing the Benn Act through so I’d personally like to see another chair as well.”

Hilary Benn MP. Photo: JPI MediaHilary Benn MP. Photo: JPI Media
Hilary Benn MP. Photo: JPI Media

On whether the House of Commons will sit on Saturday, Mr Barclay told the committee it will be for the Leader of the House to set out the order of business on Thursday.

Asked if the Government is discussing a revised political declaration with the EU, Mr Barclay said: "Yes we are."

He was asked if draft texts have been submitted and he replied: "We have submitted draft text as part of the negotiations on a number of aspects under discussion."

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Mr Barclay said if there are changes to the backstop element then "it stands to reason there would be consequential changes to the political declaration that flow from that as a consequence".

When Ms Jenkyns did ask a question she said: “I have to say since Prime Minister Boris Johnson took the role I think he’s doing a fantastic job.”

She asked Mr Barclay how negotiations had changed since Mr Johnson had been in power and if the Benn Act - which stops the country leaving the EU without a deal - had “weakened the negotiating hand” of the Government.

"I think it has been unhelpful to the negotiations, absolutely," said the Secretary of State.

"But I think what is recognised, both in the EU and the UK, that the time is now for a deal.

"The teams are working extremely hard to take that forward."