Prime Minister's Questions: The key bits and the verdict

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter

  • Published
Theresa May and Jeremy CorbynImage source, HoC

Theresa May went head-to-head with Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons. Here's what happened.

Jeremy Corbyn asked about Brexit for the second week in a row. Now that he has set out his position on the customs union he sees this as suddenly more fertile ground for Labour, mocking Mrs May's claim to be pursuing "ambitious managed divergence" from the EU, asking "what on earth" she was talking about.

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Mrs May said the government wanted to "bring back control of our borders and our money", in contrast, she said, to Labour. Mr Corbyn quoted the positive reaction his customs union speech got from the CBI and other business groups, and turned his fire on Liam Fox, sitting alongside Mrs May on the front bench, who the Labour leader claimed did not have a clue about the issue.

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Mrs May attempted to tease MPs with the speech she has planned for Friday, telling them to "just calm down" and wait for her to spell out the details of her policy, in an all-will-be-revealed tone.

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Mr Corbyn was not impressed and continued spraying the Tory front bench with attacks on their Brexit "disarray", pausing only to get in a mention of how the NHS relies on immigrant staff.

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The foreign secretary was Mr Corbyn's next target, as the Labour leader claimed he had "mixed-up" the Irish border with the one separating the North London boroughs Camden and Islington and Westminster (which Mr Corbyn crosses every day on his way to work).

Media caption,

Jeremy Corbyn asks Theresa May about Boris Johnson comments comparing the Irish border with lines between London boroughs

"Every time the cabinet meets," said Mr Corbyn, "all we get is ever more bizarre soundbites", and he asked when Mrs May will put the country's interests "before the outsize egos in her own cabinet?"

Mrs May replied by saying the government was committed to the Good Friday Agreement, with no hard border in Ireland, and ended with her traditional claim that a Labour government would bankrupt Britain.

Media caption,

The PM is asked when she is going to put the "country’s interests before the outsized egos of her own cabinet"

What else came up?

The SNP's leader at Westminster Iain Blackford continued with Mr Corbyn's attack on Boris Johnson's claims about the the Irish border and the London congestion charge, claiming the "bumbling foreign secretary" was "making the UK a laughing stock". Mrs May repeated that her government was committed to the Good Friday agreement.

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Tory MP Tim Loughton asked about passenger misery on Southern Rail.

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The DUP's Dave Simpson asked about the EU's draft legal document on Brexit and the status of the Irish border, urging her to "never agree to any trade borders between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom".

Media caption,

May: I'll make opposition to plans 'crystal clear' to EU

Mrs May could not have been clearer in her reply. If implemented, the EU document "would undermine the UK common market" and "create a customs and regulatory border down the Irish Sea", said the PM.

"No British prime minister would agree to it," she said, adding that would be telling Jean-Claude Junker and other EU officials that.

Leicester West MP Liz Kendall asked about the fatal explosion in the city, asking for support to "get to the bottom of what happened". Mrs May praised the response of the community.

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Conservative MP Philip Davies asked about "discrimination" against women by Sharia Courts. Mrs May said the home secretary would shortly be making a statement on the issue, following a government investigation into it.

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The Verdicts

Here's what the BBC's Andrew Neil and Laura Kuenssberg made of it:

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And here is BBC Parliamentary Correspondent Mark D'Arcy's take on it:

For the prime minister, it was Operation Reassure today. Again and again she said no British prime minister could possibly accept a Brexit settlement with the EU that separated Northern Ireland from the UK.

Faced with direct questions from the DUP, and softer questions from her own backbenchers, as well as considerable mockery from Jeremy Corbyn, she set her face against any deal which undermined the constitutional integrity of the UK and the common market within the UK. Job done for now - but has the Boris Johnson letter eroded faith in the government among its indispensable allies?

The foreign secretary is now a target. He is mocked, he is derided and he knows it and shows it. And his departure from the chamber, leaving an urgent question about his letter for his cabinet colleague David Lidington to answer, will do nothing to enhance his position.

Meanwhile, I am pleased to announce a birth. To Jeremy Corbyn, a soundbite. It was small, a little on the light side, but lusty: "When is she going to put the country's interests before the outsized egos in her own cabinet?"

There is now an expectation that many siblings will be spawned in future PMQs. The Labour leader managed to combine questions and mockery in today's outing... and he is flailing around rather less than he did at the start of his leadership.

In classic Westminster debating terms, he is doing better. But is he, in the process, losing the outsider style and focus on grassroots concerns that he first brought to PMQs?

He didn't dent the PM with that style of questioning, but maybe he reached people via the news bulletins and social media. And maybe he has now been sucked into a more conventional Westminster political attack?

What pundits are saying on Twitter

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And finally, for podcast fans...

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