Ed Miliband goads Boris Johnson as man who ‘got Brexit undone’

Ed Miliband goads Boris Johnson at the despatch box. Photograph: Parliament TV.

Ed Miliband goads Boris Johnson at the despatch box. Photograph: Parliament TV. - Credit: Archant

Former Labour leader Ed Miliband has goaded Boris Johnson for being the man who 'got Brexit undone'.

The shadow cabinet member was filling in for Keir Starmer as politicians discussed the government's Internal Market Bill, which plans to override parts of the Withdrawal Agreement.

The former opposition leader sparked some angry looks from the prime minister as he accused him of being the man who 'got Brexit undone' rather than 'done', who blamed his woes on everyone else but himself.

He told MPs: 'This bill gets Brexit undone by overturning key aspects of the protocol that were agreed,'

He said he could never have imagined former prime minister David Cameron announcing that the government would legislate to break international law.

'I do say to the prime minister, while I have been part of many issues of contention across this despatch box, I never thought respecting international law would in my lifetime be a matter of disagreement.


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'I stood opposite the prime minister's predecessor, David Cameron, as leader of the opposition for five years. I don't know why he's (Boris Johnson) rolling his eyes.

'I disagreed with him (Cameron) profoundly on many issues but I could never have imagined him coming along and saying we are going to legislate to break international law on an agreement we had signed less than a year earlier as a country, but that is what this bill does.'

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The Labour frontbencher said it was not an argument about 'Leave vs Remain' but 'Right vs Wrong'.

'Our global reputation for rule-making not rule-breaking is one of the reasons we are so respected around the world.

'And when you ask of people to think of Britain they think of the rule of law and let's be clear after the prime minister's speech this is not an argument about Remain vs Leave, it is an argument about Right vs Wrong.'

And he reminded Johnson that he was 'warned for months about the way the protocol would work'.

'And let's just get this straight for a minute, because I think it is important to take a step back, what the prime minister is coming to the House to tell us today is that his flagship achievement, the deal he told us was a triumph, the deal he said, as I said, was oven ready, the deal which he fought and won the general election is now contradictory and ambiguous.

'What incompetence. What failure of governance. And how dare he try and blame everyone else.

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'Can I say to the prime minister, this time he can't blame (Theresa May), he can't blame John Major, he can't blame the judges, he can't blame the civil servants, he can't sack the cabinet secretary again.

'There's only one person responsible for it, and that is him. This is his deal, it's his mess, it's his failure.'

He continued: 'For the first time in his life it is time to take responsibility, it is time to fess up.

'Either he wasn't straight with the country about the deal in the first place or he didn't understand it.

'Because a competent government would never have entered into a binding agreement with provisions it could not live with.

'And if such a government somehow missed the point but woke up later it would have done what any competent business would do after it realised it can't live with the terms of a contract, it would negotiate a way out in good faith.

'And that's why this is all so unnecessary – because there is a mechanism designed for exactly this purpose in the agreement, the Joint Committee on the Northern Ireland protocol.'

Miliband highlighted Priti Patel's call for people to follow new Covid-19 laws, adding: 'The Johnson defence means something very specific – there is one rule for the British public and another rule for this government.

'Pioneered by Cummings, implemented by Johnson, that is the Johnson rule.'

The shadow business secretary concluded: 'This is a pivotal moment in determining the future of our country – who we are and how we operate.'

He went on: '(Johnson) should be focused on securing a Brexit deal not breaking international law and risking no-deal. He is cavalier on international law, he is cavalier on our traditions, this is not the serious leadership we need, that's why we will oppose this bill tonight.'

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