Pagefield’s newest recruit George Duncan watched today’s PMQs, so in case you missed it – here’s his take.
Today’s PMQs were dominated by Brexit, and the implications it will have for the Irish border, international trade and the economy more broadly.
Corbyn’s initial questioning was used to highlight the lack of coordination between the Tory Party and the DUP over negotiations with the EU on the Irish border, which he said led to May’s recent failure to reach an agreement during negotiations. After describing May’s government as a “coalition of chaos” his benches found their full voice, cheering with delight.
May downplayed the failure of Irish border talks – which Corbyn claims were shot down by the DUP. When asked to explain the Government’s position on the matter to the House she reaffirmed her commitment to maintaining the political, constitutional, economic and regulatory integrity of the UK and Northern Ireland, using vagueness quite skillfully to avoid describing how this would be achieved precisely – much to the frustration of Corbyn.
After failing to land a knock-out blow on the Irish border, Corbyn went on to attack the performance of the International Trade Secretary, Liam Fox. Corbyn challenged the effectiveness of Fox’s approach to trade, referencing an interview he gave in June during which he said securing deals would be easy. May once more managed a reasonable defence, sticking to the line that progress was being made and Britain could use the Canada-EU trade agreement as a template for its own deal with the EU. Corbyn would have done well to mention that this deal took five years to be finalised.
Corbyn moved his focus on to the Department for Exiting the EU, with the Labour leader raising once more the issue of the ‘sectoral impact assessments’ – or indeed the lack of them. David Davis has claimed that 58 reports are being used to carefully assess the impact of Brexit on the UK economy, enabling the Government to implement contingency plans to ensure a smooth exit. However, Corbyn referenced a recent Select Committee hearing during which Davis admitted that these studies – at least in the form he has previously described them – don’t actually exit. This was Corbyn’s opportunity to strike a serious blow, undermining the credibility of the Government’s contingency plans. Instead, he allowed himself to be rebuffed by May, who argued that reports have been published and shared with Committees, and that to broaden the audience would undermine the UK’s negotiating position.
Other memorable moments include a question from Michael Fabricant, who asked the Prime Minister when she will swap her fossil-fuel guzzling Jaguar for a brand-new electric model, produced using expertise and technology from his constituency in Mid-Staffordshire.
Congratulations to Pagefield client Motability, who this week are celebrating the charity’s 40th birthday. Sir Mike Penning MP asked the Prime Minister during PMQs:
“I’m sure the whole house is aware that 40 years ago this house came together and voted for a new charity, a Motability charity, which has transformed the lives of disabled people and their families. Would the Prime Minister agree with me that the success started by Lord Goodman when he was chairman, and now by Lord Sterling, should be carried forward and it gives a golden opportunity for disabled people to get into the workplace and enjoy the things that everybody else does in this country?”
To which the Prime Minister responded:
“I’m grateful to my right honourable friend for marking the 40th anniversary of Motability in this way, and I’m very happy to join him in marking that and I’m looking forward to becoming a Senior Patron because they do excellent work for people with disabilities, enabling them to stay mobile and active and there are more people with a Motability car today, than there were in 2010. But can I also wish my right honourable friend well, as I understand he will be going to the palace tomorrow to receive his knighthood. Well deserved.”
Despite raising some embarrassing points for the Government and amusing his own party, Corbyn failed to deal significant damage. As May noted, his ‘questions’ often resembled statements and his questioning was, at times, disparate and relatively unfocused. Considering the lack of progress in relation to Brexit he may be feeling tonight that he missed an opportunity.
Talk of a Labour Party in high spirits seems spot-on following their rowdy behavior during today’s PMQs. The Party relished in Corybn’s criticism of the Government, whilst the Tories – for most of the session – appeared to be far more subdued.
May used the Irish border issue to mock the Labour Party’s lack of cohesion in regards to membership of the single market and customs union, saying that the only hard-border was within the Labour party.