Brexit minister tries but fails to keep straight face over claim Government 'always intended' to publish Brexit plan

'I’ve faced the secretary of state on many occasions, asking for a plan, and he has refused on every occasion, so nobody is going to fall for that,' says shadow Brexit minister

Richard A. L. Williams
Wednesday 07 December 2016 15:15 GMT
Brexit Secretary fails to keep a straight face about 'always intending' to publish Brexit plans

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


The last 24 hours in Westminster have been largely occupied by Labour and Conservative spokespersons attempting to present the latest development in the Brexit debate as a victory for their party.

With just moments to go before a Parliamentary deadline on Tuesday, Theresa May accepted a Labour motion that she must set out “the Government’s plan for leaving the EU before Article 50 is invoked”.

Labour hailed a “hugely significant climbdown” – immediately demanding that the plan be published “no later than January” next year, to allow for proper scrutiny.

Downing Street instantly issued a series of counter-briefings that suggested a Tory amendment meant Labour would now be forced to support the Prime Minister's timetable for activating Article 50 by next March.

While that claim appeared arguable, the Government's assertion that Ms May had always planned to reveal her strategy for leaving the EU may be considered more questionable, a point made by shadow Brexit minister Keir Starmer.

Addressing the post-PMQs debate on the motion, Labour MP Keir Starmer said: “I’ve seen the overnight briefings, which will no doubt be repeated today from the dispatch box, that the Government always intended to publish its plan."

At this point, cameras in the Commons closed in on the Conservatives' Brexit minister David Davis, whose pursed lips appeared to give way to a broad grin as he strategically plucked a sweet from his pocket and put it in his mouth before leaning over to say something to his neighbouring MP.

To a backdrop of knowing chortles across the House, Mr Starmer continued: “But an 11th hour concession is an 11th hour concession. I’ve faced the secretary of state (David Davis) on many occasions, asking for a plan, and he has refused on every occasion, so nobody is going to fall for that.”

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