prime minister jeremy corbyn northern ireland theresa may brexit
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The Labour leader could hardly ignore the issue of Brexit after the week we have just had, with Theresa May having to return from Brussels empty-handed after the DUP blocked a deal on the Northern Ireland border... but he has gone off on unexpected tangents at PMQs before.
Tory MP Henry Bellingham gave Mrs May a helping hand before Mr Corbyn could get started, however, asking her for an update on Brexit negotiations. The PM repeated some of her favourite Brexit catchphrases, such as "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" (that will make an appearance again later).
“Nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” says @theresa_may #pmqs pic.twitter.com/QkrxnlM9gl
Mr Corbyn began his six questions with an attack on the government's competency after the breakdown of Brexit talks, accusing her of leading a "coalition of chaos" (repurposing Mrs May's jibe against Labour in June's general election). Mrs May dealt easily with this by attacking Labour's own apparent confusion over where it stands on Brexit.
“In July, the international trade secretary said Brexit negotiations would be the easiest in human history. Does the PM still agree with that assessment?” @jeremycorbyn asks @theresa_may #pmqs pic.twitter.com/kNWTWDiZl4
Mr Corbyn continued to press the prime minister on Monday's "shambles" in Brussels, asking her to clearly outline where she stood on the Northern Ireland border issue. She said there would be no "hard border" but the final decisions won't be made until phase two of the Brexit talks (for newcomers to this issue, the EU says phase two of the talks can't start until the border issue is decided).
Mr Corbyn accused Mrs May of being held to ransom by the DUP, the Northern Ireland party whose 10 MPs are needed for her to win key votes. "The tail really is wagging the dog here," he told MPs.
“I think it was a little difficult to detect the question that there was in that interruption” @theresa_may tells @jeremycorbyn before questioning Labour position on single market and customs union #pmqs pic.twitter.com/dXhOGIkk1R
Mr Corbyn then switched to the running sore of the government's Brexit impact studies. Brexit Secretary David Davis has been accused of blocking the publication of these. Mr Davis has again played down their significance, suggesting they don't really exist in the form Labour thinks. Do they exist or don't they, asked Mr Corbyn.
There were no 58 impact assessments, there were 800 pages of sectoral analysis, said Mrs May, in a tone suggesting they were far too boring for MPs to worry about.
“Is the PM now able to end the confusion, and clearly outline what the government’s position is now, with regard to the Irish border” @jeremycorbyn“Exactly the same position I took in the Lancaster House speech… we will ensure there is no hard border…” @theresa_may #pmqs pic.twitter.com/UwwroE9TVv
Mr Corbyn called for a fully itemised account of the Brexit divorce bill. Not a chance, said Mrs May, because "nothing is agreed until everything is agreed" in Brussels. "The only hard border", she said in today's scripted joke, "is right down the middle of the Labour Party".
“Mr Speaker, this really is a shambles” @jeremycorbyn on the “heavily-redacted abbreviated version that has not been widely shared” “The hard border around is right down the middle of the Labour Party” @theresa_may pic.twitter.com/zUzKjEVQfU
Mr Corbyn broadened out his attack from Brexit, to the NHS, child poverty, "our rip-off railways", universal credit and much else besides. "If they can't negotiate a good deal wouldn't it be better if they just got out of the way," he says.
Mrs May hit back, somewhat randomly, with an attack on Mr Corbyn's student debt "promises", fully aware that she always gets the final word in these exchanges.
The SNP's Iain Blackford focused on a call to keep the whole of the UK in the single market and customs union following the events of this week (something Jeremy Corbyn did not get into, despite many of his MPs sharing this view).
“The deal that was done to keep the PM in office gave the DUP a veto over Brexit” says @IanBlackfordMP saying PM “is in office but not in power”“What we are doing is working for a deal that will work for the whole United Kingdom” @theresa_may #pmqs pic.twitter.com/aEJREvnO0U
The PM faced a series of pointed questions from Conservative Brexiteers Peter Bone, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Bernard Jenkin, who fear she is caving in too easily to Brussels. Peter Bone asked if the UK was still on course to deliver what the British people had voted for last year - and offered to accompany her to the next set of talks with EU leaders. The PM politely declined his offer...
“If we have a problem, would it help if I came over to Brussels with you to sort them out” @PeterBoneUK asks @theresa_may on #Brexit talks #PMQs pic.twitter.com/mzJprp0DxV
Labour's John Grogan asked about plans to upgrade the TransPennine rail link.
Is the PM on board with HS3 in northern England, Labour MP John Grogan asks the PM@theresa_may replies she will look at the proposals "very seriously" pic.twitter.com/JaXfCDUoXw
Labour MP Ruth George raised the issue of nursery owners struggling with the new policy of 30 hours a week of free childcare for three and four year olds - she said 1,000 nurseries had closed already.
Just after PMQs Speaker John Bercow mistakenly called Labour's Ben Bradshaw the MP for Brexeter. The Exeter MP, a staunch Remainer, is anything but a Brexiteer - as an embarrassed Bercow was happy to concede.
"It was a time for forensic questioning" says @afneil on #pmqs but Mr Corbyn gave "a series of rather short speeches, a couple of which did not ended in any kind of question at all" #bbcdp pic.twitter.com/ZXj9kbBNJo
"More heat than light from both of them, it was not either of their finest hours" @bbclaurak on Brexit issues at #pmqs pic.twitter.com/zq9m4zpnoY
Tory Brexiteers (Bone, Rees-Mogg, Jenkin) turning on Theresa May was most significant feature of #PMQs.
A bit of a failure that the country is no clearer where we are on the Brexit talks now, than when PMQs started
Rees-Mogg asks PM “when she goes to Brussels will she apply a coat of red paint to her red lines, because they are beginning to look a bit pink?”. Blue on Blue.
But most imp fact is May didnt look too worried. https://t.co/gBOoLZgZZC