Sir Keir Starmer has accused Boris Johnson of twisting the “truth” for the purpose of “gags” during Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs).
The leader of the opposition said Johnson had a habit of hiding behind “pre-prepared gags” instead of answering tough questions.
Probing the prime minister on the government’s border strategy, Sir Keir asked: “With new variants coming into the country, our schools are shut and our borders are open….21,000 people are coming into this country every day. The prime minister’s new border arrangements are still weeks away from being implemented and will only affect direct flights from some countries.
“We know from the first wave of the pandemic that only 0.1% of virus cases came from China, where we had restrictions; whereas 62% came from France and Spain, where there were no restrictions. Why does the prime minister think that the variants of the virus will behave differently and will only arrive in the UK by direct flight?”
Johnson shot back, accusing Labour of “having it both ways”. “He simultaneously says he wants the borders to be kept open for freight reasons or to allow businesses to carry on, whilst calling for tougher quarantine measures, which is exactly what this government imposed as soon as it became aware of the new variant.”
Rattling off the list of travel restrictions, Johnson added: “If we had listened to the honourable gentlemen, we’d still be in the starting blocks because he wanted to stay in the European Medicines Agency.”
“Nonsense,” Sir Keir hit back. “Never let the truth get in the way of a pre-prepared gag. The prime minister knows I have never said that from this despatch box or elsewhere. The truth escapes him.”