Home Secretary Sajid Javid appeared to be at odds with his boss Theresa May after an embarrassing slip-up in front of a Commons committee.
The minister was asked whether the government would support an amendment to May’s Brexit plans, which aims to protect the rights of UK citizens in the EU and vice versa, regardless of whether Brexit talks break down.
Pressed by MPs as part of a Home Affairs Select Committee appearance on Wednesday, the home secretary confirmed that the government would be performing a u-turn and backing Tory backbencher Alberto Costa’s amendment.
He went on to challenge SNP MP Stuart McDonald as to “who told you” the government would do otherwise, only to be informed it was “the prime minister” who spoke to the committee “yesterday”.
″Right, OK,” Javid replied.
Despite an awkward moment, Javid went on to tell the committee the government had “no issue” with the backbencher’s bid.
The full conversation:
Javid: “Did you ask me what’s wrong with that amendment?”
McDonald: “So, is the Government supporting it then?
McDonald: “Good, I’m delighted to hear that.”
Javid: “What do you mean now? When was the government not supporting it? When did you hear that?”
Javid: “From who?”
McDonald: “The prime minister.”
Javid: “Did you?”
Javid: “Right, OK.”
Costa’s amendment does not ask the UK to strike any new agreement with the EU. But it does call on the government to implement the part of the withdrawal agreement - the so-called “divorce bill” - that includes citizens’ rights at “the earliest opportunity” regardless of how Brexit talks play out.
It has been tabled as May prepares for a series of votes on her Brexit plans on Wednesday, with parliament largely gridlocked over her deal.
Javid also confirmed to the committee, chaired by Labour MP Yvette Cooper, that Shamima Begum’s baby son is a British citizen but there is no plan to rescue him.
The Bethnal Green teenager, who fled London to join IS in Syria, appealed to be allowed to come home to the UK has been stripped of her British citizenship.
Javid told MPs: “But I can confirm, if it is helpful, that if you are a British-born mother and you have a child anywhere in the worlds that child, so long as you are British at the point that child is born is British.”
Cooper went on to ask: “Is there any plan for that child, presumably he is in quite a vulnerable situation, and that is a British baby?.”
Javid replied: “Sadly, there are probably many hundreds of children, who have been born to foreign fighters,” he said.
He told the committee that 900 Brits went abroad to fight with IS in Iraq and Syria. He added that 40% have returned, 20% were killed and 40% may still be there.
Asked what Javid’s response would be if Begum asked for her son to be rescued, he said it would be “very difficult” given there is no British consulate in Syria.
The baby would need to be taken to a British consulate in Turkey with the consent of its mother, he added.