POLITICS
17/07/2018 21:38 BST | Updated 18/07/2018 09:17 BST

MP Accuses Government Of 'Cheating' Over Crunch Brexit Vote After 'Breaking Pairing Agreement'

Tories condemned after narrow victory for Theresa May.

An MP who just had baby has accused the Government of “cheating” to win a crunch Brexit vote.

The Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson has blasted Tory MP Brandon Lewis, also the party chair, who she was ‘paired’ with as she was unable to vote.

‘Pairing’ is an arrangement between two MPs of opposing parties to not vote in a particular division, enabling one to be absent without affecting the result.

But the senior Conservative did vote and helped Theresa May narrowly avoid a humiliating Commons defeat on trade plans.

With several heavily pregnant women on the opposition benches, the House of Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom had promised that all would be given pairs.

Swinson took her anger to Twitter and asked Theresa May “how low will your government swoop”.

She wrote: “Don’t try any nonsense about a mistake - this is calculated, deliberate breaking of trust by govt whips @JulianSmithUK to win at all costs.

“Brandon abstained in afternoon divisions, but voted in the two crunch votes after 6pm. There’s a word for it - cheating.”

Lewis apologised and claimed it was an “honest mistake” in “fast-moving circumstances”.

“I’m sorry Jo. I think it was an honest mistake made by the whips in fast-moving circumstances,” he told her.

The Tory MP had missed earlier votes, but took part in the two crunch divisions on the Trade Bill.

Conservative MP, Sarah Wollaston, who has opposed the government’s Brexit stance, is offering her support to Swinson.

Shadow women and equalities minister Dawn Butler said it was an “absolutely appalling move” by the Tory chairman.

The Government avoided defeat by just six votes over an amendment which could have required the UK to join a customs union after Brexit if a trade deal was not in place by January.

Swinson gave birth to her son Gabriel on June 29.