Labour Brexiteer Frank Field (Birkenhead) went first. Almost before his spine was straight he ran into hysterical interruptions from Labour Remainers
Chests were puffed, order papers waved, sneers smeared across superior chops: Our parliamentary betters (that’s how they see themselves) started the first of several days of close scrutiny of the EU (Withdrawal) Bill.
One relief: No Bercow. The House was ‘in committee’ and the strutting martinet was therefore absent. The chair was taken by Deputy Speakers Lindsay Hoyle, Dame Rosie ‘Mrs Slocombe’ Winterton and others.
Labour Brexiteer Frank Field (Birkenhead) went first. Almost before his spine was straight he ran into hysterical interruptions from Labour Remainers.
Prime among them was windy Paul Farrelly (Lab, Newcastle-under-Lyme). Deputy Speaker Hoyle told him to stop being a pest.
Mr Field wanted a Brexit Bill of little more than six clauses. That would be harder for the House of Lords to delay, he argued.
If peers played silly beggars with Brexit, ‘many of us will push the nuclear button – they will sound their death warrant’. This won agreement from the Tory benches but sullen silence from the Labour side. ‘I thought we wanted to get rid of them!’ laughed Mr Field, mocking his Left-wing colleagues.
When son-of-the-nobility and leading Remainer Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central) tried to trip him up on an analogy about house-buying, Mr Field replied tartly that ‘I have always bought my homes, never inherited them’. Ouch! Though he later withdrew the jibe, that searing swipe will not be forgotten.
Mr Field was embroiled in fiery clashes with Labour colleagues, and warned that the House of Lords would sound its own ‘death knell’ if it tried to block the Brexit Bill
The youthful minister, Steve Baker, batted neatly and saw off an intervention from Mr Clarke with impressive aplomb, despite suffering a cold which had robbed him of much of his larynx
The Commons today kicked off the first of eight marathon sittings which will see a coalition of Labour, the Lib Dems, the SNP and Tory Remainers try to water down the legislation
Remainers loved a speech from Kenneth Clarke (Con, Rushcliffe), at his most blustery and burgundy-faced. He recounted European Council meetings of yore when agreements were reached over long lunches and ministers would then go out and lie to their electorates about what they had said. Mr Clarke seemed to think this was all wonderfully funny.
Sir William Cash (Con, Stone) observed that it showed how anti-democratic the EU was. Sir William called the Withdrawal Bill ‘a massive restoration of self-governance’. Mr Clarke was much encouraged by laughter and cheers from Labour MPs. #
Their devotion made him so giddy with jocular vanity that the old boy started sneering about how nowadays politicians feel they ‘have been instructed by the people’. Not he! ‘I have no time for referendums,’ the old pot-belly wheezed.
En passant, he took a swipe at Boris Johnson for not reading his briefs. This from the man who voted for the Maastricht Treaty without ever reading it.
Mr CLARKE claimed that Eurosceptic Sir William ‘now represents orthodoxy and I am the rebel’. Is this really true? Does anyone in this country truly believe that our Establishment is not still firmly in the hands of Remainers?
‘This debate is just re-running the arguments held before the referendum,’ thought Leaver Bernard Jenkin (Con, Harwich & N Essex)
When son-of-the-nobility and leading Remainer Hilary Benn (Lab, Leeds Central) tried to trip him up on an analogy about house-buying, Mr Field replied tartly that ‘I have always bought my homes, never inherited them’
Former chancellor Ken Clarke told the Commons that specifying the Brexit date in legislation was ‘ridiculous and unnecessary’
Chris Bryant (Lab, Rhondda) wanted the Government to reach ‘consensus’ with the overwhelmingly pro-EU political elite. Antoinette Sandbach (Con, Eddisbury) kept making indignantly pro-Brussels interventions. The SNP’s spokesman made a speech better suited to a college debating society. The more mature Dominic Grieve (Con, Beaconsfield) stamped his Oxford brogues and said he would ‘not be ordered’ to support Brexit by the voters or anyone. ‘I am not willing to suspend my judgment,’ he drawled.
‘This debate is just re-running the arguments held before the referendum,’ thought Leaver Bernard Jenkin (Con, Harwich & N Essex). The youthful minister, Steve Baker, batted neatly and saw off an intervention from Mr Clarke with impressive aplomb, despite suffering a cold which had robbed him of much of his larynx.
Wera Hobhouse (Lib Dem) praised the EU’s pooling of national sovereignty. Remainer Anna Soubry (Con, Broxtowe) pulled expressions of freakish disbelief at pro-Brexit arguments. When Mr Grieve said he would rebel against the Government ‘no ifs, no buts, no maybes, no arm twisting’, his lackey Bob ‘Muttley’ Neill (Con, Bromley & Chislehurst) growled and yapped. Give him a Bonio, Dom.
They think they are being terribly clever. The country may merely see a House of sullen bubble-blowers who are slashing and burning, still trying to ignore the fact that Britain has voted to leave their beloved Brussels.