PMQs verdict: May’s avoidance tactics land her in it

Jeremy Corbyn
Photo: PA

Jeremy Corbyn Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

They call it 'prime minister's question time' – which suggests the premier really should answer some.

Prime minister Theresa May
Photo: PA

Prime minister Theresa May Photo: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

But, alas, not today.

It was a brave move for Jeremy Corbyn to dedicate all six of his questions to Brexit – especially with failing Chris Grayling wobbling over the rail fiasco in Labour's heartlands in the North (he did manage a deft segue into the railways towards the end though as Grayling looked on in horror).

The Labour leader opened with: 'Last month the Brexit secretary promised 'a detailed, ambitious and precise white paper on the negotiating position' ... will it be published in advance of the debate next week?'

She ignored that.

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Unperturbed Corbyn said: 'Can the prime minister assure the house it will be published before the crucial June summit and the House will be able to debate it?'

She ignored that but attempted a retort: 'Perhaps the right honourable gentleman would like to take the opportunity to do what he refused to do a few weeks ago in this chamber and stand up and rule out a second referendum?'

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He ignored that.

Then Corbyn went after the customs union issue, the one which could do real damage to May: 'Four weeks ago the prime minister did confirm that the cabinet was looking for two options for the customs union ... which of her sub committees have met, what decisions have been made ... when they will report to the cabinet and will we be told about it?'

She ignored that.

Sensing the avoidance theme Corbyn stayed calm – something he has failed to do in the past – and kept on asking: 'Last week the Brexit secretary put forward another new plan including a 10-mile buffer zone in Northern Ireland – is that now the government's option?'

She ignored that.

Then Corbyn landed his first real blow and followed it up with the knockout: 'Can the PM confirm it remains her plan to leave the EU in March 2019 and complete the transition by December 2020.

Finally, she answered one: 'Yes.'

But then came Corbyn's best moment at PMQs for some time: 'Ahhhh ... well Mr Speaker ... I look at the faces behind her and they are not all of one on this ... When it comes to Brexit this government has delivered more cancellations and more delays than Northern Rail. The government's white paper is delayed, its customs proposals have been cancelled and it has ripped up its own timetable. This government's incompetence threatens our economy, business, jobs and communities ... my question to the prime minister is this: which will last longer, the Northern Rail franchise or her premiership?'

She ignored that.

VERDICT: Corbyn 2 May 0

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