Jeremy Corbyn’s question about Theresa May ‘ducking responsibility’ on Brexit was branded ‘completely ridiculous’ in the House of Commons by pro-Remain MP Ken Clarke, who used his question to attack both leaders.
Corbyn asked Brexit secretary Steve Barclay for guarantees that ‘faced with yet another humiliating defeat that the prime minister won’t just run away’, adding he must offer a ‘cast-iron promise’ that the vote will not be dropped again.
The opposition leader said: ‘The government is trying to run down the clock in an attempt to blackmail this House and the country in supporting a botched deal.’
Corbyn claimed ministers were pushing a ‘Frankenstein monster of a deal’ and criticised ‘shambolic’ no-deal Brexit preparations, saying transport secretary Chris Grayling has a ‘PhD in incompetency in running ministries’ as he mocked his decision to award a shipping contract to a company with no ships.
He went on: ‘Even today we see the farce of lorries being lined up to stage a fake traffic jam in Kent to pretend to the EU that the government is ready for no deal.’
However it was left to pro-Remain MP Ken Clarke to provide a solution to cut through the rhetoric, with Clarke arguing it was time to delay Article 50.
He criticised both the Labour leader for his ‘completely ridiculous’ question where he has ‘no idea what he wants’, and Theresa may for setting 29th March as a date ‘accidentally set’ by the prime minister when she had no idea ‘what she was going to ask for’.
The father of the House said: ‘We have only about 80 days left before the government at the moment are basing a deadline on which depend crucial decisions that will affect future generations and our whole basis of our political and economic relationships with the rest of the world.
‘We are nowhere near consensus in this House or in the country about what new relationships with the European Union we’re actually asking for, let alone those which we’re likely to achieve.
‘Now we have a completely ridiculous question from the leader of the opposition, who has no idea what he wants, and just feeling he’s got to same something, making some points about the crisis we’re in.
‘Can I ask the right honourable friend, as we’re in this position, and as the 29th March is an entirely arbitrary date, which was accidentally set when the prime minister decided for no particular reason to invoke Article 50 before she knew what she was going to ask for.
‘Isn’t it obvious the national interest requires we now delay matters by putting off the implementation of Article 50, in order to put ourselves in the position where we can seriously negotiate with 27 serious governments by showing what we’re asking for, to deliver from our side, and to protect the national interest and future generations?’
Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay rejected the premise, saying that revoking Article 50 could not be used as a ‘tactical device’.