Meet Oliver Letwin, the Jewish MK who derailed Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans

Letwin's parents were Jewish-American conservative intellectuals who were at the center of a "salon" in Kent Terrace, London, whose attendees included Isaiah Berlin and Milton Friedman.

Independent MP Oliver Letwin is pictured at Whitehall, after parliament discussed Brexit, sitting on a Saturday for the first time since the 1982 Falklands War, in London, Britain, October 19, 2019.  (photo credit: REUTERS/SIMON DAWSON)
Independent MP Oliver Letwin is pictured at Whitehall, after parliament discussed Brexit, sitting on a Saturday for the first time since the 1982 Falklands War, in London, Britain, October 19, 2019.
(photo credit: REUTERS/SIMON DAWSON)
On Thursday, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced in triumph that he had struck a deal with Brussels that would allow him to deliver Brexit on October 31, as he had repeatedly pledged to do.
However, when the country's parliament assembled on Saturday, marking the first time it met on a Saturday in 37 years, since the Falkland war, the deal did not even reach the floor for a vote.
Oliver Letwin, a veteran lawmaker and a son of prominent Jewish intellectuals, single-handedly outmaneuvered the session by introducing a 26-word amendment stating that parliamentary approval for the deal, which is required in order to ratify it, should be withheld until the government has passed the legislation needed to implement the exit agreement.
The amendment passed with 322 votes in favor and 306 opposed.
"I, despite my support for the prime minister's deal, do not believe that it is responsible to put the nation at risk by making that threat [of leaving the EU without a deal if the agreement was not approved, editor's note]," Letwin said during Saturday's three-hour debate, according to Reuters.
Letwin, a former minister, was one of 21 Conservatives expelled from the party in September for not supporting Johnson's pledge to leave the EU on October 31 with or without a deal, and he has focused his political acumen on preventing a no-deal Brexit.
In August, the Jewish Chronicle of London reported that he would not seek re-election.
Letwin's parents were Jewish-American conservative intellectuals who were at the center of a "salon" in Kent Terrace, London, whose attendees included Isaiah Berlin, Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, Keith Joseph, according to The Telegraph.
In their youth, both were selected to attend a program offered to students from a disadvantaged background at the University of Chicago.
Letwin's father, William, whose parents had fled Kiev to escape anti-Jewish persecutions, afterward spent two years at the London School of Economics and then earned his Ph.D. in Chicago. He later became a leading professor at LSE teaching history of economic thought and contemporary American politics. He passed away in 2013.
Letwin's mother Shirley Robin's parents had emigrated to the United States from Russia, according to The Independent. She also studied at LSE and she later became a well-known philosopher. Her books include The Anatomy of Thatcherism (1992). She passed away in 1993.
According to the Jewish Chronicle, Letwin came under the spotlight in 2013 because one of his staff members removed the description of the MK's religion as Judaism from his Wikipedia page. He later explained that he chose to do so because he identified as an atheist, but he left the information on his Jewish background.
Speaking on BBC on Sunday, the day after the vote, Letwin said he was behind the government now.
"I am absolutely behind the government now as long as they continue with this bill, continue with the deal, I will support it, I will vote for it," Letwin said.
"There will be no more Oliver Letwin amendments next week because there don't need to be, I am supporting the bill."
He explained that he just wanted to provide the country with an "insurance policy" to make sure it would not crash out of the EU without a deal on October 31 "if anything goes wrong."
On Sunday, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab reaffirmed that the country is going to leave the EU by October 31.
"[Johnson] has got that deal. We seem to have the numbers in the House of Commons. Why hasn't parliament pushed this through? That is what we are going to do next week," he told BBC, according to Reuters.
Reuters contributed to this report.