Tuesday, November 30

MPs: PM’s crass language has blown Brexit



Boris Johnson was today warned by Labour MPs that he had damaged his chances of getting a new Brexit deal through the Commons with his “crass and dangerous” language.

The Prime Minister caused uproar in the Commons last night as he repeatedly clashed with MPs, rejected calls to temper his language, including branding anti-no-deal legislation a surrender act, and said the best way to honour Jo Cox the pro-Remain Labour MP killed by far-Right loner just days before the 2016 referendum was to “get Brexit done” .

Mr Johnson also dismissed as “humbug” Labour MP Paula Sherriff’s claim that like Mrs Cox, many parliamentarians faced death threats from people using the same sort of language as him.

Diane Abbott, shadow home secretary, said last night’s performance had put off MPs from offering cross-party support to a Brexit deal. “I have spoken to people who might want to consider a Boris Johnson deal but that is over,” she told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer claimed Mr Johnson’s behaviour showed he did not “genuinely” want to get a new Brexit deal through the Commons.

Stephen Kinnock, leading a group of about 20 Labour MPs willing to strike a Brexit deal with the Government, said: “We can’t have a politics that rediscovers the lost art of compromise if people are using incendiary and inflammatory language.”

However, Mr Johnson, who appeared to be in election mode yesterday, showed no signs of backing away from his hardline language , telling a meeting of the 1922 Committee of Tory backbench MPs: “They [Labour] are trying to drive us off the word surrender because they know it is cutting through.” A Senior No10 figure, asked if there were any regrets about yesterday’s language, reportedly said : “No…The Vote Leave campaign keeps going.”

Winston Churchill’s grandson led a chorus of Tory condemnation of Mr Johnson’s hardline language, telling him: “Start behaving like a Prime Minister.” Conservative grandee Sir Nicholas Soames also accused Mr Johnson of driving the country “further apart” over Brexit.

In key developments today:

  • Sir Julian King, Britain’s EU Commissioner in charge of security, branded Mr Johnson’s language in the Commons “crass and dangerous”.
  • Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan was sent a death threat overnight after she warned against the use of inflammatory language, the Evening Standard has learned.
  • Tory chairman James Cleverly defended Mr Johnson and argued that tensions across the UK would “continue to brew” until Brexit was resolved.
  • In the Commons today Speaker John Bercow said the culture in the chamber last night was “toxic” and pleaded with MPs to treat each other as “opponents not enemies”.
  • Mr Cleverly signalled that Mr Johnson could ignore a possible summons by the London Assembly to give evidence over his links to former model Jennifer Arcuri whose companies benefited from public money.

Last night in the Commons there were furious clashes between the Prime Minister and opposition MPs. The House had been reconvened following the Supreme Court ruling that shutting down Parliament was unlawful.