Labour’s Brexit position is “bollocks”, Michael Gove has told the House of Commons – but insisted he was simply echoing the feeling of the Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench.
During the second day of debate on Theresa May’s Brexit deal – which MPs will finally vote on next week – the environment secretary told parliament that a number of Brits had added stickers saying “Bollocks to Brexit” to their cars.
“But we now know from Labour’s own frontbench that their official Brexit position is bollocks,” Gove said, sparking peals of laughter from the Tory benches. “Now, I am quoting directly for the member for Brent North,” he added.
It comes after Labour MP Barry Gardiner – the party’s shadow international trade secretary – was caught on tape in March last year saying Labour’s ‘red line’ that a Brexit deal must offer the exact same benefits as remaining in the EU was “bollocks”.
“Always has been bollocks and it remains it,” the shadow minister said.
Describing Gardiner as a “jewel and an ornament in the Labour frontbench”, Gove said the Labour MP “speaks the truth with perfect clarity”.
“Can I say across the House, we are grateful to him, grateful to the constant gardener for the way in which he has cast light on the testicular nature of Labour position,” he continued, prompting another roar of laughter.
It was met less kindly by Lib Dem MP Sir Edward Davey, who asked Commons speaker John Bercow whether there were new rulings on parliamentary language.
But Bercow dismissed Davey’s query, saying he had “richly enjoyed” Gove’s observations and his “exceptionally eloquent delivery of them which I feel sure he must have been practising in front of the mirror for some significant hours”.
There was “nothing disorderly” about the use of the phrase, the speaker added, saying it was a “matter of taste”.