Tory MPs were urged to face “reality” about the impact of ‘no deal’ on the UK by their own colleagues during a spiky Commons clash.
Anti-Brexit Tory MPs Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan delivered heckles to Leave campaigners in their own party as MPs debated the progress of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Sitting in the back row of the Government benches, the pair took on former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson and ex-Pensions Minister Shailesh Vara after an update on the negotiations was given.
It wasn’t just Tory on Tory action during the debate, with Brexit Secretary David Davis accusing a Labour MP voicing concerns about ‘no deal’ of “talking down the economy.”
Earlier in the Commons, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson described the opposition as being “supine invertebrate protoplasmic jellies” as he accused them of being willing to pay £100billion to the EU to get the Brexit negotiations moving.
The comments came just hours after the Resolution Foundation published a study claiming three million of the poorest families in the UK would be at least £500 a year worse off if there is no free trade deal with the EU after Brexit – while average households would see their living costs rise by £260.
Vara, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, said: “Those who threaten economic Armageddon if we leave the EU without a deal are effectively engaging in Project Fear 2. Would my Right Honourable Friend agree with me that Project Fear 1 did not materialise and there’s every possibility that Project Fear 2 won’t either?”
His comment was met with shouts of “it’s reality!” from Soubry and Morgan, and jeers from the Labour benches.
Former Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson got to his feet to ask Davis: “When are our partners [EU27] going to realise that it is massively in their interest that we establish reciprocal free trade and start talking about our end trading relationship?”
Morgan rolled her eyes and said “unbelievable” as Paterson was talking.
The heckles came after the Brexit Secretary delivered an update on the progress of negotiations to MPs after the fifth round of talks concluded last week.
It had been planned that “sufficient progress” would have been made on citizens’ rights, the Northern Ireland border and the financial settlement to allow talks to move to discussing the EU and UK’s future trading agreement in November.
However, the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier said there was a “deadlock” over the size of the financial settlement, and he would not be recommending to the leaders of the remaining 27 EU countries that talks could move on.
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Addressing the Commons, Davis tried to pin the blame for the stalemate on his EU counterparts.
He said: “Let me be clear that sufficient progress, and the sequencing of negotiations, has always been an EU construct, not the UK one.
“Negotiations require both parties to not just engage constructively but also to develop their positions in advance.
“For the UK’s part, I have I have always been clear that we will be conducting these negotiations in a constructive and responsible way, we have been entirely reasonable in that.”
Labour’s Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer was quick to point out that Davis had agreed to the sequencing of the talks and the notion of “significant progress” during the first round of negotiations.
He urged the Government to “drop the nonsense about ‘no deal’”, adding: “Only fantasists and fanatics talk up ‘no deal’.”
“At the first hurdle, the government has failed to hit a very important target,” he said, referring to the stalemate.
Labour MP Wes Streeting asked Davis for clarity on the progress of securing a transitional agreement for the two years after March 2019, saying the “warning signs are there in the economy” if no arrangement is reached.
Davis accused the Ilford North MP of engaging in “fantasy economics”, adding: “People like him have been talking down the economy for two years.”
In another clash, Justice Minister Dominic Raab - a vocal campaigner for Brexit - shouted across to the Labour frontbench that they wanted to give the EU a “blank cheque” for the financial settlement.
“Stop talking drivel, you’re better than that,” Starmer snapped back.