PMQs: Tricky Brexit sparring match for Labour

If PMQs today is anything to go by, any member of the public who has checked out of the Brexit process and started to ignore all so-called developments has it right. It was one of Theresa May’s last sessions, but could have played out in exactly the same way – word for word – on any Wednesday over the last few months. Thousands of jobs are at risk because of no deal, Jeremy Corbyn argued. The best way to block no deal is to vote for my deal, the Prime Minister replied. Ad nauseam.

Things were about to get more interesting when the Labour leader pointed out that both Tory leadership candidates have said they’ll renegotiate backstop – despite this being ruled out by the EU under the terms of our latest extension. He asks: “Can she confirm that Section 12 of the EU Council decision to extend Article 50 ruled out reopening the withdrawal agreement and therefore the backstop?” She briefly agrees with the premise of the question, though not in clear terms, before quickly resuming normal service. And they continue swapping accusations about who has done most to make no deal likely.

“Labour want to block Brexit – and that would be a betrayal of the many by the few,” May summed up in her final line. Unfortunately for Labour, this pithy line has bite. A few opposition frontbenchers and dozens of Labour backbenchers agree with this conclusion and believe that Labour “cannot win a general election by simply fighting for the biggest share of 48%”. That’s a quote from party chair Ian Lavery. Unless Labour cancels conference and suspends shadow cabinet meetings, it is heading towards a Remain policy – one that will force many key figures to agree with Theresa May’s concluding attack today.

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