Okay, credit where credit is due here: Jeremy Corbyn was very good at PMQS yesterday, while Theresa May was genuinely awful. I never thought I’d type that sentence but here we are.
Of course, it was mostly because Corbyn went after her on Brexit, easily her least favourite topic of discussion, finally, finally doing so after avoiding it for whatever reason for so long. But at least he’s finally figured out.
Corbyn’s first question was a simple one about single market access. May was all over the shop. She opened by saying “I have been clear and I will be clear again….” getting a deserved jeer from the opposition benches, the likes of which we haven’t heard in some time. Whatever you think of Jeremy Corbyn’s politics, it was nice to hear democracy come to life again in the House of Commons. She went downhill from there, stating the following (and it requires the quote here in full):
“What we seek is the best possible arrangement for trade with and operation within the single European market for business in goods and services here in the United Kingdom.”
Putting aside the fact that the “best arrangement” in this instance is European Union membership, she seems to be saying here that she wants to remain in the single market. She says she’s being clear, when in fact she is everywhere and nowhere on this point. It isn’t a minor footnote either – whether we are in the single market or outside of it will be massive.
Corbyn followed this up with the first thing he’s ever said that has made me laugh: “I thought for a moment the prime minister was going to say Brexit means Brexit again.” Then he got me again with the next line: “I’m sure one day she’ll tell us what it means.” Perhaps I’m just easily amused.
Next up was the Irish border question. May was terrible again. She made the point that the CTA has existed since 1923, a stupid argument undermined by the fact that the EU didn’t exist in 1923 and the UK and Ireland joined the EEC on the exact same day, so it’s never been an issue before now. If you want to stop immigration from the EU never mind sit outside the customs union, how you avoid having some form of hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is crucial. May does not appear to be even seriously considering the problem.
Corbyn then had another zinger about there not being a “third way” in regards to having a border – you either have one or you don’t – that was pithily delivered. More stuff from May about being “clear” followed: she was running for cover by this stage. She made a slip that the UK would “operate within the European Union” which may or may not be telling.
Jeremy Corbyn’s politics are mostly dementedly awful and he’s still on course to get creamed at the next general election. But at the very least, he’s finally decided to take the job of leader of the opposition seriously, something which is good news for everyone regardless of political affiliation.