Wednesday 16 October 2019

Defiant PM refuses to apologise as he dares Labour to face the electorate

Angry outburst: Attorney Geoffrey Cox labelled the opposition as cowards. Picture: PA
Angry outburst: Attorney Geoffrey Cox labelled the opposition as cowards. Picture: PA

Jill Lawless

An unrepentant Boris Johnson brushed off cries of "Resign!" and dared the opposition to try to topple him at a raucous session of the House of Commons last night.

Amid shouts, heated attacks and repeated cries of "Order!" from Speaker John Bercow, the prime minister emphatically vowed to press ahead with Brexit, with or without a deal.

"I say it is time to get Brexit done," he declared, accusing his opponents of trying to frustrate the will of the people.

Mr Johnson was greeted with applause from his own Conservative MPs and jeers from the opposition as he faced the Commons, hours after cutting short a trip to the United Nations in New York.

The prime minister said it was "absolutely no disrespect to the judiciary to say I thought the court was wrong" to pronounce on a "political question at a time of great national controversy".

Claiming that MPs were trying to prevent Brexit entirely, he said: "The people at home know that this Parliament will keep delaying, it will keep sabotaging the negotiations because they don't want a deal."

In response, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn repeated his call for the prime minister to quit.

"After yesterday's ruling the prime minister should have done the honourable thing and resigned," he said.

Mr Corbyn dismissed Mr Johnson's response as "bluster from a dangerous prime minister who thinks he is above the law", adding: "In truth, he is not fit for the office that he holds."

Mr Johnson went on to repeatedly ignore other calls to apologise or to step down. He claimed a new election is the only way to unblock Britain's "paralysed Parliament".

"I think the people of this country have had enough of it - this Parliament must either stand aside and let this government get Brexit done or bring a vote of confidence and finally face the day of reckoning with the voters," he said.

He said he would welcome a no-confidence motion from any of the opposition parties - a step that could bring down his government and lead to a new election.

Opposition MPs and some Conservative rebels said they will back an election only if a no-deal Brexit is ruled out.

Mr Johnson claimed legislation designed to block the government from forcing through a no-deal Brexit on October 31 had had a "profound psychological impact" on the EU, adding: "It has had an impact on negotiations and it has made things more difficult."

The prime minister, who was replying to Hilary Benn, Labour chairman of the Exiting the European Union Committee, also said: "We have tabled proposals... progress is being made, it is not assisted by publishing our proposals today."

Attorney General Geoffrey Cox also faced questions about his legal advice that indicated the five-week suspension would be within the law.

Mr Cox told MPs he will consider whether the public interest might require a "greater disclosure" of advice given to the Government on the prorogation.

In a defiant outburst, he labelled the government's opponents as cowards for refusing to call an election.

He railed against what he called the "dead Parliament" claiming MPs had no "moral right" to remain in the Commons, try to "block 17.4 million people's votes" and refuse to allow an election.

His accusations were met with a furious response from the opposition benches.

Labour MP Barry Sheerman delivered an angry speech in which he shouted Mr Cox had shown "no shame at all", adding of Mr Johnson: "For this prime minister to talk about morals and morality is a disgrace."

In Scotland, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said: "I feel disgust watching Johnson," describing the prime minister as "untrustworthy, craven... unfit for office in every sense".

Irish Independent

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