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

By Brian Wheeler
Political reporter

Image source, HoC

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

It was the first Prime Minister's Questions since MPs returned from their summer break - and to no one's great surprise Brexit dominated.

Equally predictably, Theresa May tried to make the most of Labour's anti-Semitism row and used a planted question from a Conservative MP to call on Jeremy Corbyn to apologise to the Jewish community before the Labour leader had even got to his feet.

Mr Corbyn said there was "no place for racism in any form" in his party and society as a whole - "and that includes the Conservative Party".

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

He used all six of his questions to highlight Cabinet splits over the prime minister's Brexit proposals - starting with a quote from International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who said the chance of a "no deal" Brexit was 60/40. Was he right, Mr Corbyn asked the prime minister.

Mrs May said she was working to "get a good deal with the European Union" but it was also "right and proper that we should prepare for all eventualities", including a "no deal" Brexit. It was a form of words she stuck to for the rest of her exchanges with Mr Corbyn. She called on the Labour leader to rule out a second referendum.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

The Labour leader threw quotes at her from Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Chancellor Philip Hammond warning about the dangers to the economy and Britain's place in the world of a "no deal" Brexit, starkly at odds, he suggested, with Liam Fox's attitude.

Mrs May quoted the head of the World Trade Organisation who, she told MPs, had said a "no deal" scenario "would not be a walk in the park but it would not be the end of the world".

Mr Corbyn then tried to pin her down on what Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab had meant when he said there were "countervailing opportunities to a no deal Brexit".

In response she called on him to rule out a second EU referendum again. Mr Corbyn then made a crack about the prime minister's dancing - as seen on her summer trip to Africa.

"She can not keep dancing around all the issues," said the Labour leader. Mrs May grinned and pulled a face at him.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Panasonic "had decided to dance off altogether", said the Labour leader, and "relocate to another country". Had other companies told her they would be doing that as well, he asked.

The PM read out a list of businesses she said had "shown confidence in our economy" by investing in the UK and had a dig at the Labour leader's shifting positions on the customs union.

Media caption,
Theresa May to Jeremy Corbyn: "He can't even agree with himself on his own position"

Mr Corbyn asked if the PM was still planning get a deal with the EU by October. The government was "working to the timetable of October," she told him.

Media caption,
Jeremy Corbyn asks the PM if she will reach a deal with the EU by the "agreed deadline" of October 2018

The Labour leader quoted former Bank of England Governor Sir Mervyn King - who has accused the government of "incompetence" in Brexit talks - before reaching the climax of his attack.

"The Chequers proposal is dead, already ripped apart by her own MPs, when will the prime minster publish a real plan that survives contact with her cabinet and reality and protects jobs," he asked.

Mrs May repeated her standard line on her Brexit plans and ended with another swipe at Labour's anti-Semitism issues, saying Mr Corbyn "should be ashamed of himself".

What else came up?

The SNP's leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford, also attacked the prime minister's Chequers plan for post-Brexit trade, claiming it was "even more unpopular than the poll tax" had been in Scotland. He said staying in the single market and customs union was the only option to protect jobs.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

Andrea Jenkyns said online abuse targeted at a newly-elected Conservative councillor had left her special needs son too scared to leave the house.

Media caption,
Andrea Jenkyns: Online abuser used 'dead wife's account'

The Verdict

Here is BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg's take on the session:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.View original tweet on Twitter

BBC parliamentary correspondent Mark D'Arcy's verdict:

I sometimes wonder if anyone would notice if a broadcaster were to substitute one of the previous weeks' PMQs exchanges on Brexit for today's. These formulaic, ritualistic clashes tell us little or nothing about the biggest issue confronting the country.

Jeremy Corbyn brandishes the latest unhelpful quotes from cabinet ministers and other big figures. Theresa May says it's all going according to plan and challenges the Labour leader to rule out a second referendum. It's Kabuki dancing for Brexit nerds… a rather niche form of, er, entertainment.

The former Brexit minister Steve Baker, a long time organiser of the backbench Eurosceptics, asked a deceptively simple question about preparations for a no-deal Brexit - an issue which matters a great deal to the hardcore Brexiters. The answer from the PM was not the point - the aim was to underline how important this party faction thinks those preparations are.

It is always hard to gauge the reaction of the troops on either side of the House to another helping of all this, but they were clearly less than ecstatic. If one of these two leaders were a really top parliamentary artist, the other would have been ousted by now.

Instead the opposing sides cheered their ritual cheers - and on the Labour side the forced mirth at their leader's quip about the PM "dancing around" Brexit issues looked a little embarrassed.

The question of the day was probably Meg Hillier's pithy inquiry about cash-strapped schools cutting the number of teaching days. The PM floundered around for a few minutes before grinding out a non-answer about more pupils being in good schools.

Media caption,
Vince Cable asks if the scheme to attain settled status in UK has "59 ways of saying no in a continued hostile environment"

Sir Vince Cable delivered a nice well-honed question about the process for giving EU nationals resident in Britain the "settled status" which will allow them to continue to live here after Brexit. There are 59 pages of guidance, he said, providing "59 ways of saying no in a hostile environment".

It was a nice piece of parliamentary art, but it produced barely a splash. The PM did not even bother to make some sarcastic quip about the Lib Dem leader's rumoured plans to stand down. Perhaps the strategy is to starve him of publicity by declining to seriously engage with anything he says.