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Boris Johnson news: Defiant PM refuses to drop ‘surrender bill’ language, after he is lauded by far right and loses seventh Commons vote

Adam Forrest,Ashley Cowburn,Jon Sharman
Thursday 26 September 2019 21:50 BST
'The culture was toxic' John Bercow addresses house after angry exchanges about Brexit and the PM's language

Boris Johnson has refused to back down on his use of the phrase “surrender bill” to refer to anti-no-deal Brexit legislation, after he prompted widespread condemnation by telling MPs they should honour the memory of Jo Cox by delivering Brexit.

But he admitted in a TV interview there was a need to “bring people together, and get this thing done”. Mr Johnson did not turn up to face MPs’ outrage in the Commons on Thursday, after he had dismissed warnings of death threats made against them as “humbug”.

His own sister Rachel Johnson described his remarks as “highly reprehensible”, but far-right activists hailed his comments as “brilliant”. The row comes as the PM lost a vote on holding a recess for the Tory party conference: his seventh straight defeat in the Commons.

Tone was the topic of the day in Westminster as MPs of all stripes admitted they had failed to remain civil amid the chaos of Brexit.

There were mutters of “hear, hear” as John Bercow told the Commons it had done itself no credit during last night’s fractious debate, while the Equality and Human Rights Commission was forced to step in and remind politicians of the advice they were given, in the wake of the Brexit referendum three years ago, to be respectful when discussing the subject.

The PM’s top adviser, Dominic Cummings, said it was not surprising that the public was angry about Brexit and that ”a lot of people in parliament are more out of touch with the country now, than they were in summer 2016”.

He added: ”People on all sides have said things that veered between unwise and very unpleasant, and sometimes criminal. That is true of people of the Leave side and that’s true of people on the Remain side.”

In Brussels, Mr Johnson was given some breathing room when the European Commission said it had not endorsed the negotiating deadline of next week that had been set by Emmanuel Macron. It came as member states’ disquiet grew over the lack of proposals from the UK.

But the good news was limited on a day in which the PM lost his seventh consecutive Commons vote, asking for a recess to allow the Conservative Party conference to take place – maintaining his 100 per cent loss record.

See how we covered the day’s events live


Good morning and welcome to The Independent's live coverage of events at Westminster and beyond.

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 08:04

Boris Johnson telling MPs they should honour the memory of murdered parliamentarian Jo Cox by delivering Brexit has been called “deeply shocking” by the slain politician’s successor.

There was uproar in the Commons as the PM repeatedly berated MPs, rejected calls to temper his language and said the best way to honour Cox was to “get Brexit done”.

Tracey Brabin, who succeeded Cox as MP for Batley and Spen following her 2016 murder, said: “It got gasps around the chamber, because remember that Jo worked cross-party – she had friends in all parties. And just the crassness of it was deeply shocking.”

Johnson also dismissed the idea of death threats as “humbug”. Read the full story here:

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 08:07

Diane Abbott, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said the performance by Boris Johnson in the Commons last night had wrecked the chances of MPs offering cross-party support to a Brexit deal.

“I have spoken to people who might want to consider a Boris Johnson deal but that is over,” she said.

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 08:09

Brendan Cox, the husband of murdered MP Jo Cox, said he “felt sick” after watching events in parliament last night – and was shocked at the tone of the debate.

“It creates an atmosphere where attacks and violence are more likely than they otherwise would've been,” he told the Today programme this morning.

“I was genuinely shocked by the willingness to descend to vitriol and the type of language that was used because I think it does long-lasting harm.”

Asked about Boris Johnson, Cox said: “I think it was sloppy language and the wrong thing to say but I don't think he is an evil man.”

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 08:15

Aside from causing a storm with his Jo Cox remarks, Boris Johnson was in utterly unrepentant mood as he returned to the Commons.

The PM brushed aside repeated demands to resign, criticised the 11 judges who found his suspension of parliament unlawful, and accused Jeremy Corbyn of “running away” from a general election.

Here’s our political editor with the full story.

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 08:29

Tory party chairman James Cleverly has defended Boris Johnson’s comments to MPs in the Commons. He denied that the PM labelled opposition MPs “traitors”.

“The accusations thrown at him yesterday were deeply unfair,” he told the Today programme. “He was accused of calling people traitors – he has never done that.”

The party chairman admitted that Johnson had used the word “betray” in Parliament on Wednesday.

But he attempted to split hairs over the term “betrayal”.

Cleverley said: “He didn’t use the word betrayal yesterday.”

Host Martha Kearney, quoting Johnson, said: “’We will not betray the people who sent us here, we will not’ – that was yesterday.”

Cleverley replied: “Yes, okay ... you said he used the word ‘betrayal’. He said ‘we will not betray’.”

He claimed the failure to resolve Brexit was creating “a highly-charged and uncomfortable atmosphere”.

“The Conservative government and the prime minister, Boris Johnson, are trying to resolve this but the opposition parties are refusing to do so.

“This can be deescalated, the tempers can be taken out of this. But in order for that to happen, there needs to be a balance on both sides.”

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 08:40

Boris Johnson could be jailed for contempt of court if he refuses to request a Brexit extension, according to a senior judge who is an uncle of Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings.

Former appeal court judge Sir John Laws predicted the Supreme Court will hear a case against the PM within days if he fails to meet the 19 October deadline to seek an extension.

Our political editor has all the details.

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 08:44

Won’t somebody please think of the poor prime minister?

Tory Brexiteer Bernard Jenkin MP caused astonishment among Newsnight guests with his reply to a question about Boris Johnson’s refusal to temper his rhetoric.

“Think of the strain the prime minister is under,” he said.

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 09:14

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 09:14

Jacob-Rees-Mogg has promised an “exciting announcement” in parliament this morning. What could it be?

The Commons will sit from 9.30am, when it will hear urgent questions and statements.

It will be followed by a motion on whether to recess for the Tory Party Conference this weekend, and a general debate on the principles of democracy and the rights of the electorate.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is expected to meet opposition leaders this afternoon.

Adam Forrest26 September 2019 09:21

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