It was a showdown over the single market at this week’s PMQs. Leonie Martin’s got the highlights.
Issue of the Week
Following the PM’s speech yesterday where she set out her 12 point plan for exiting the European Union, today saw a bad tempered PMQs with all six of the Labour leader’s questions unsurprisingly devoted to Brexit.
After warning she would walk away from the EU without a deal and change Britain’s economic model to do so, Corbyn began by attacking the PM for threatening to turn Britain into an “off shore tax haven” and appealed for her to turn away a “bargain basement Brexit”. The PM replied to say that like he, she too wanted access to the single market but that maybe he didn’t understand the meaning after confusing “access” with “membership” in a Sky News interview on Tuesday. The PM declared “I’ve got a plan – he doesn’t have a clue” to which Tory backbenchers shouted “more!”.
Rounding out exchanges, Corbyn pointed out (arguably too late) that thousands of workers from the EU are employed in Britain’s public services including 50,000 by an NHS already under strain. May delivered a final cutting retort stating “when I look at Brexit, or indeed any other issue like the NHS and social care, I consider the issue, I set out my plan and I stick to it – it’s called leadership, he should try it some time.”
Having done well in recent weeks with his feet planted comfortably in NHS and social care safe zones; Corbyn came unstuck today when attempting to unravel the PM’s Brexit plan and repeatedly failed to land a definitive blow. The debate was characterised with tired questions from Corbyn dredging up old statements from May’s remain campaign and the PM repeating plans for “global Britain”.
Whilst Corbyn began with effective points about corporation tax, his argument got lost in the mix with repeated calls for the PM to clarify how much the UK would have to pay for access to the single market allowing her to deflect with well-rehearsed rebuts.
Verdict: Corbyn falls flat.
With a seeming lack of choice for best joke this week, we’ve decided to go for the worst. Corbyn’s “Irony Lady” jibe in reference to May’s decision to deliver her Brexit speech at a press conference rather than in Parliament fell flat and garnered harsh reaction on the Twitter sphere with many citing it the worse parliamentary joke ever (maybe they’ve forgotten Cameron’s MacDonald’s “I’m lovin’ it” disaster?)
Divisions between the parties today were clear but none more so than that of the Tories and SNP who roared at each other throughout exchanges. Repeatedly asked why her party wasn’t listening to Scotland’s cross-party calls to stay in the European single market as a “partner” in negotiations, May did little to alleviate accusations of “stringing the people of Scotland along” and Westminster disconnect when she mistakenly referred to the SNP’s as the Scottish Nationalist Party.
Angus Robertson expressed further distain for his Tory counterparts when faced with resounding jeers from Conservative benches after starting a sentence “Scotland’s leading economic forecaster says…” The SNP parliamentary leader sneered at Tory MPs as he went on to say that economists’ predictions showed that 80,000 people may lose their jobs in Scotland as a result of a hard Tory Brexit shouting “does the Prime Minister believe that this is a price worth paying for her little Britain Brexit?”
“This week’s showdown over the single market forced Corbyn out of comfort zone and gave May platform for well-rehearsed rebuts #PMQs”