Belfast Telegraph

Corbyn's sentiment on Union a bit rich given IRA support, says Boris Johnson as Labour leader says Northern Ireland 'thrown under a bus'

By PA Political Staff

Jeremy Corbyn accused Boris Johnson of throwing Northern Ireland "under a bus", as the Prime Minister urged MPs to push through key Brexit legislation.

Boris Johnson, however, hit back saying it was "a bit rich" to hear the Labour leader's sentiment for the Union given his "political lifetime supporting the IRA".

The Labour leader clashed with the PM over post-Brexit workers' rights, environmental standards and the future of the NHS, during exchanges dominated by the UK's departure from the EU.

He also claimed Mr Johnson was "delaying his own Withdrawal Bill", a charge rejected by the PM, who in turn alleged Mr Corbyn and his front bench are a "threat" to the UK and want 2020 to include referendums on the EU and Scotland.

Prime Minister's Questions took place after the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill cleared its first parliamentary hurdle, before MPs rejected Government plans to fast-track it through the Commons to meet the October 31 Brexit deadline.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Johnson said: "It was a great shame the House, as it were, willed the end but not the means, but there is still time for (Mr Corbyn) to do that and explain to the people of the country how he proposes to honour his promise that he made repeatedly to deliver on the will of the people and get Brexit done."

After he questioned why the PM had removed assurances over environmental, consumer and workers' rights from the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement, Mr Corbyn switched to the NHS and raised concerns over privatisation.

Addressing the union, Mr Corbyn added: "Less than one year ago, the Prime Minister said, and I quote, that any regulatory checks and custom controls between Great Britain and Northern Ireland would damage the fabric of the Union.

"Given that this deal clearly does damage the fabric of the Union, does he still agree with himself?"

Mr Johnson replied: "I believe the Union is preserved and indeed we are able to go forward together as one UK and do free trade deals in a way that would have been impossible under previous deals.

"This is a great advance for the whole of the UK and we intend to develop that together with our partners in Northern Ireland."

Mr Johnson added that it was a "bit rich to hear from him about his sentimental attachment to the fabric of the Union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland when he has spent most of his political lifetime supporting the IRA".

Mr Corbyn pushed the PM to confirm if checks would take place for goods moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, to which Mr Johnson replied: "The United Kingdom is preserved whole and entire by these arrangements and indeed the whole of the UK will come out of the European Union customs union so we can do free trade deals together.

"There will be no checks between Northern Ireland and GB and there will be no tariffs between Northern Ireland and GB."

Mr Johnson added: "(He) wants to spend the whole of the next year in a referendum not just on the EU but another referendum on Scotland - this is the threat to our United Kingdom, on the Labour front bench."

Mr Corbyn said he wondered if the PM had read key sections of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill, adding: "The Prime Minister unlawfully prorogued Parliament, he said he would refuse to comply with the law, he threw Northern Ireland under a bus, he ripped up protections for workers' rights and environmental standards, lost every vote along the way, and tried to prevent genuine democratic scrutiny and debate.

"He once said the whole withdrawal bill as signed by the previous prime minister was a terrible treaty - yet this deal is even worse than that.

"Does the Prime Minister accept that Parliament should have the necessary time to improve on this worse than terrible treaty?"

Mr Johnson replied: "It is this Government and this party that delivers on the mandate of the people."

Labour's Rupa Huq (Ealing Central and Acton) earlier said Mr Johnson had "a long list of shortcomings" before joking: "So could he do something over one that he does have some control of - and get rid of Dominic Cummings?"

The PM said he receives "excellent advice" from a wide range of advisers and officials, adding: "I take full responsibility for everything that this Government does."

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