September 04, 2019
Prime minister accuses Labour leader of running scared of a snap election in pair’s first PMQ clash

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Boris Johnson of not having a Brexit negotiating strategy and trying to cover up the true impact of a no-deal departure, during a noisy and sometimes bad-tempered first prime minister’s questions clash for the pair.
Johnson – who pointedly failed to answer any of Corbyn’s direct questions – in turn accused the Labour leader of running scared of a snap election ahead of a vote later on Wednesday to hold an election on 15 October.
The clashes, in which Johnson was barracked remorselessly by the opposition benches, came the day after the prime minister lost his first vote in parliament, on a backbench bill seeking to delay Brexit, and then ejected 21 Tory rebels from the party.
Focusing entirely on Brexit, Corbyn lambasted Johnson for, as he put it, having no plan or intention to find a new departure arrangement and seeking to leave without a deal on 31 October.
“He’s been prime minister for six weeks and he promised to get Brexit sorted,” Corbyn told the Commons. “In six weeks he’s presented nothing to change the previous prime minister’s deal, which he twice voted against. These negotiations that he’s talking about are a sham. All he’s doing is running down the clock.”
Johnson repeatedly taunted the Labour leader over backing an election: “I know he’s worried about free-trade deals with America, but there’s only one chlorinated chicken that I can see in his house, and he’s on that bench.”
The government has tabled a motion under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act seeking a poll next month, but it needs a two-thirds Commons majority to pass, requiring opposition support. Labour has said it will not back the plan on Wednesday, as it first wants a guarantee that a no-deal Brexit will not take place.
The backbench bill to delay the UK’s departure from the EU until at least 31 January will also be debated by MPs on Wednesday, before heading to the Lords.
Johnson repeatedly referred to it as a “surrender bill”, a No 10-devised populist term intended to draw attention to the fact that the EU can mandate an alternative extension date – albeit only with the approval of the Commons.
He reiterated his charge that in backing the bill Labour was undermining the government’s Brexit negotiating position. Corbyn responded: “I really fail to see how I can be accused of undermining negotiations, because no negotiations are taking place.”
In his questioning, Corbyn repeatedly sought details of what, if any, new proposals Johnson and his team had presented to Brussels to seek a revised Brexit deal, particularly over a replacement for the backstop insurance policy for the Irish border.
“If the prime minister thinks he’s making progress, will he publish those proposals he’s put forward to replace the backstop?” Corbyn asked. Johnson replied, prompting Labour jeers: “As the right honourable gentleman knows very well, we don’t negotiate in public and we are making substantial progress.”
Corbyn also pushed Johnson to publish the government’s official predictions on the impact of no deal, saying the public had the right to know about likely food price increases and medicine shortages.
Johnson replied: “I’m afraid that the right honourable gentleman is guilty of the most shameless scaremongering. We have made ample preparations for coming out of the EU. What his party is recommending is yet more dither, yet more delay, yet more uncertainty for business.”
Corbyn said: “In his third day in office, after five questions from me, we haven’t had an answer to any of them. I can see why he’s desperate to avoid scrutiny. He has no plan to get a new deal, no authority and no majority.
“If the prime minister does to the country what he has done to his party in the past 24 hours, I think a lot of people have a great deal to fear from his incompetence, his vacillation, and his refusal to publish facts that are known to him about the effects of a no-deal Brexit.”
Johnson replied: “I really don’t see how, with a straight face, the right honourable gentleman can accuse anybody of being unwilling to stand up to scrutiny when he will not agree to submit his surrender bill to the verdict of the people in an election. He’s frightened.”
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