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Theresa May accuses her Brexit critics of ‘frustrating the will of the British people’

Prime Minister turns on Jeremy Corbyn after he tries to poke fun at the phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Wednesday 26 October 2016 13:49 BST
Corbyn makes joke about Prime Minister's Brexit phrase

Theresa May has accused anyone questioning her Brexit strategy of “frustrating the will of the British people”, in a heated Commons clash.

Jeremy Corbyn accused the Prime Minister of carrying out a “shambolic” withdrawal process, which was threatening jobs and investment – including dangerous uncertainty in Northern Ireland.

The Labour leader told MPs the only way he could decipher what Ms May was trying to achieve in her EU talks was to “consult the great philosophers”.

And he joked: “The only one I could come up with is Baldrick, who says, ‘Our cunning plan is to have no plan’.”

But Ms May hit back, provoking laughter from her MPs as she said: “Of course, the actor playing Baldrick was a member of the Labour Party, as I recall.”

Earlier, Mr Corbyn warned Mrs May: “Every day you dither over this chaotic Brexit, employers delay investment and there are rumours circulating about relocation.”

And he said he feared that any answer from the Prime Minister on her ambitions for Britain outside the EU would include her famous mantra: “Brexit means Brexit”.

In reply, the Prime Minister said: “You try to poke fun at the phrase ‘Brexit means Brexit’ but the whole point is this – it's this Government that's listening to the voice of the British people.

“Brexit means Brexit – that means we're coming out of the European Union.

“What you try to be doing is frustrating the will of the British people by saying that Brexit means something completely different.”

To the surprise of some, Mr Corbyn failed to raise the revelation that Ms May warned that companies would quit the UK if the country voted for Brexit, during a secret audience with investment bankers.

In a recording leaked to The Guardian, she told Goldman Sachs of her fears about the economic price to be paid for leaving a 500 million-strong trading bloc.

The comments, less than a month before the EU referendum, left the Prime Minister open to the charge that she was issuing a dire private warning – while barely campaigning, in public, for Remain.

One of former Prime Minister David Cameron’s closest aides has since suggested her muted position helped her career in the aftermath of the Leave vote.

But Downing Street pointed out Ms May had made a big speech during the campaign in which she raised the risks and opportunities of Brexit.

In April, she said: “If we do vote to leave the European Union, we risk bringing the development of the single market to a halt, we risk a loss of investors and businesses to remaining EU member states driven by discriminatory EU policies and we risk going backwards when it comes to international trade.”

Asked if Mrs May stood by the comments, her spokeswoman said: "The point now is that the British people have voted to leave the European Union and the Prime Minister is focused on how we make that work in the best interests of Britain.”

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