Isabel Hardman

Cameron takes aim at Boris in pointed Commons statement

Cameron takes aim at Boris in pointed Commons statement
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The main difference between David Cameron’s statement to MPs on his EU deal and the two statements he has already given on the matter was that this one had added digs at Boris Johnson. Quite a few of them, in fact. The Prime Minister is clearly furious with the Mayor of London for his weekend announcement that he will be campaigning to leave, and inserted a number of extremely pointed lines into his feedback to the Commons that showed what he thought of Johnson’s decision.

He ruled out the suggestion - one made by Boris himself - that voting Leave now would teach Europe a lesson and enable a better renegotiation before a second referendum. Cameron has done this before, but not in the terms quoted below:

‘And we should be clear that this process is not an invitation to re-join, it is a process for leaving. Sadly, Mr Speaker, I have known a number of couples who have begun divorce proceedings. But I do not know any who have begun divorce proceedings in order to renew their marriage vows.’

The Commons roared with laughter at this. But it also gave a low gasp when the Prime Minister said, very pointedly and grimly indeed that ‘I have no other agenda than what is best for our country’.

What was also striking about the statement was how incidental Labour seemed to it. Jeremy Corbyn complained that he had not had advanced sight of what the Prime Minister would say until relatively late, which hardly made him seem as though he was rising to the occasion. The Labour leader then complained about the bits of Europe that he didn’t like, and endured a memorable heckle from a Tory backbencher as he told the Commons about a meeting he had held in Brussels. ‘One of them said to me,’ he began, but was interrupted by shouts of ‘WHO ARE YOU?’ The Commons descended into hysteria.