Michael Gove in colourful dismissal of Labour’s Brexit plans
Mr Gove opened the latest day of debate on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Labour’s Brexit plans are “bollocks”, Environment Secretary Michael Gove has told the Commons.
Referencing reports that shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner had referred to Labour’s official Brexit position in the same way, Mr Gove said he agreed.
Praising the Brent North MP’s “truth and perfect clarity”, Mr Gove said the Commons was grateful for his casting of light on “the testicular nature” of Labour’s six Brexit tests.
Mr Gove said: “He summed them up, pithily, in a word which in Spanish translates as ‘cojones’ and in English rhymes with ‘rollocks’.
“I know, Mr Speaker, there are some distinguished citizens in this country who have put on their cars a poster or sticker saying ‘bollocks to Brexit’ – but we now know from Labour’s own frontbench that their official Brexit position is bollocks.”
Mr Gove added: “I have to say that the shadow international trade secretary is a jewel and an ornament to the Labour front bench.
“He speaks the truth with perfect clarity, and in his description of Labour’s own policy can I say across the House we’re grateful to him, grateful to the constant Gardiner for the way in which he has cast light on the testicular nature of Labour’s position.”
His remarks came as he opened the latest day of debate on Theresa May’s Brexit deal.
Liberal Democrat former minister Sir Edward Davey called a point of order, asking whether Speaker John Bercow had “made a new ruling on Parliamentary language which I am not aware of?”
Mr Bercow responded that Mr Gove had not been disorderly and use of the word was “a matter of taste”.
He said: “I have made no new ruling on Parliamentary language and I was listening, as colleagues would expect, with my customary rapt attention to the observations of the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.
“I richly enjoyed those observations and particularly his exceptionally eloquent delivery of them, which I feel sure he must have been practising in front of the mirror for some significant hours.
“There’s nothing disorderly – because a number of people were chuntering from a sedentary position that the use of the word beginning with B and ending in S, which the Secretary of State delighted in regaling the House with – was it orderly?
“Yes, there was nothing disorderly about the use of the word – I think it is a matter of taste.”
Opening debate for the day, Brexiteer Mr Gove said compromise was inevitable with any Brexit deal and insisted Mrs May’s agreement “honours the referendum result” and protects the “interests of every British citizen”.
He went on to defend the Northern Ireland backstop, saying: “One of the opportunities that the citizens of Northern Ireland have as a result of this deal is to have unimpeded access, not just to the rest of the UK market, which is essential for the maintenance of our union, but also unimpeded access to the rest of the European Union.”
The Cabinet minister also warned that a no deal would see “economic turbulence”, at least in the short term, and that tariffs of up to 40% would “absolutely” be applied by the EU to certain goods.
He later claimed other European countries will be envious of the UK’s deal with the EU when pushed by the SNP’s Patrick Grady (Glasgow North).
Mr Gove said: “I think other countries will be envious of the position that we will be in because I think it will be the case, for the sake of argument, that some Italian politicians will look at our ability to have quota and tariff-free access to their markets, and yet at the same time be out of the jurisdiction of the ECJ and to have full control of our borders and to be paying no money.”
And he said he had decided “after long reflection” to back the PM’s deal, saying MPs had “an obligation to honour” the mandate of the 17.4 million people who voted for Brexit in the EU referendum.
He said: ”All of us might have a perfect version of Brexit, a change here, an alteration there – but we all have to accept our responsibility next Tuesday to decide, are we going to honour that verdict?”
Mr Gove said if MPs reject Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement and we leave on March 29 with no deal, then “of course Britain will prosper, eventually, but it is undeniably the case – the facts on the ground demonstrate it – that there will be economic turbulence and damage that our citizens and constituents face”.
He finished by saying: “That is why I, after long refection, have decided that we must back this agreement.
“We must ensure that the British people’s vote is honoured, that their future is safeguarded, Britain can embrace the opportunities that our people deserve in the future.”
Shadow environment secretary Sue Hayman told ministers that it was “not acceptable that after two years we have so little” from the Prime Minister’s negotiation with the EU.
She said: “There’s only one paragraph in the political declaration that refers to protecting rights and standards, which just shows how low down the priority this is for the Government, which is why we cannot support it.”
Ms Hayman went on to explain that Labour would pursue a general election in the event of Mrs May’s deal being voted down on Tuesday with aim of “negotiating an improved deal”.