Now that the single market and the customs union (in its current trade-deal restricting form) are out of the question, just what are the Europhiles going to moan about? One half-expected Jeremy Corbyn to start today by earnestly inquiring if the Prime Minister will keep the glorious EU flag on our driving licenses and make sure butchers don’t start selling meat in pounds and ounces to the carnivorous, Brexit-voting xenophobes of the nation. It’s a sweet irony that arch-Remainers are now in the position of nitpicking about irrelevant minutiae of the European project, a criticism traditionally reserved for veteran Eurosceptics.
In the chamber today it quickly became clear that Jez, bless him, doesn’t seem to have quite cottoned on to the implications of the PM’s speech, and so instead decided to continue his established line of questioning. “Last year the Prime Minister said that leaving the single market could make trade deals “considerably harder”” he moaned. “The Chancellor said after the referendum that to lose single market access would be “catastrophic””, he cried. Getting desperate he wailed at Theresa May about the need for “frictionless access to the single market”, before finally demanding to know “will we have to pay for access to the market or not?” May and Hammond chuckled to themselves as they sat and watched the leader of Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition valiantly flog a long dead horse.
This sort of meltdown is what happens when you force poor Jeremy to think on his feet: he malfunctions and naturally reverts to mindlessly regurgitating his standard single market moan-fest. The nadir came when the Labour leader attempted to crack a gag, “Restoring parliamentary democracy while sidelining Parliament”, Corbyn quipped, “is not so much the Iron Lady as the Irony Lady”. Dennis Skinner, surely an expert in the matter of poor political jokes, delivered his verdict in the form of a glum thousand mile stare into the middle distance. On the backbenches some Labour MPs momentarily stopped Googling “Museum Directorships near Me” and sighed in Corbyn’s general direction.
Such was Corbyn’s idiocy, simply repeating his own words back to the House slower would be sufficient counter-argument. And so Mrs. May read the Labour leader’s comments on the single market only yesterday: “She has said, ‘leave the single market,’ but at the same time says she wants to have access to the single market. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to go down in Europe. I think we have to have a deal that ensures we have access to the market.” Having comprehensively proved that her opposite number doesn’t really understand the distinction between access and membership to the Single Market, the PM then leant forward and in her best Maggie intoned “I’ve got a plan; he doesn’t have a clue”.
Should she continue this tactic in the future – for it was undoubtedly successful – this raises the intriguing possibility that PMQs could consist entirely of Jeremy Corbyn’s questions, first read by the Labour leader, and then repeated more slowly by the PM to highlight the utter idiocy of what he’s just said. Rather how a schoolteacher would treat a particularly dense child when they’re teaching them how to add-up. “And what’s eight plus four Jeremy? Twelve, yes exactly. So do you see what you did there Jeremy? Yes that’s right, you forgot to carry over the two. Okay, now lets try again”.
It must be said that Corbyn was in a tricky situation, after all Theresa May has played a blinder. In short she allowed those most vociferous champions of the Remain cause to whine about the single market and free movement for a good six months until they had thoroughly discredited themselves and wound up as many people as possible. Then just as Leavers are beginning to get restless she dons her Vivienne Westwood suit (as any good Brex Pistol would) and announces that yes we will be indeed be leaving the European Union, and bigly, not “half in, half out”.
The best bit? That she actually told us her plan straight away when she simply stated “Brexit means Brexit”. Not exactly the enigma code, but the combined brains of the BBC-Labour-Guardian axis were naturally dumbfounded by such a simple tautology. One would say that a career at MI6 most certainly does not beckon, but given the quality of some of their recent operatives, perhaps it does.
For the remainder of the PMQs the PM did a fine job in engaging in a bit of banter about football, even riffing with Karl McCartney on Lincoln City’s win, which she dubbed a “fitting tribute for Graham Taylor”. Seeing as these words made as much sense to Mrs. May as Klingon or binary she did well to reasonably simulate a passing interest in the national game. Angus Robertson rose to vent his tartan spleen, looking even more pale and ghostly than usual. In fact he’s beginning to bear a startling resemblance to the Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars fame (post-being fried by lightning). And deciding to reaffirm true Labour values Chris Bryant got up to condemn the closure of tax offices in South Wales, before arguing that we should have one opened in all “the small towns, villages and valleys of this country”. The nation carpeted in tax offices: that truly is a Labour MP’s idea of heaven on earth.