A senior Conservative MP has been criticised for branding the European Union the “enemy” - as Theresa May came under pressure to to reveal details about her Brexit negotiating strategy.
Crispin Blunt, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, said today there was little point the government setting out its strategy as it would inevitably change once negotiations with Brussels began.
“No plan survives engagement with the enemy,” he told MPs. “A military metaphor from a soldier.”
Labour’s shadow Brexit secretary Kier Starmer immediately criticised Blunt for his comment. “Some of the language and tone that has been adopted by the government and its frontbench is not helping the prospect for a good outcome,” he said.
Starmer said EU leaders were “not particularly amused” by “jokes about Prosecco” or “references to cake”.
He added: “Comments along the way that are unhelpful or disparaging about our EU partners are simply not helping.”
Other Labour MPs were also highly critical of Blunt’s choice of words:
Faced with a revolt by up to 40 Tory MPs today, the prime minister on Tuesday bowed to pressure and backed a Labour motion which says she should publish a plan before triggering the formal process of leaving.
In return, most of the rebels and Labour will back a compromise Government amendment to support May’s pledge to invoke Article 50 to start Brexit by April.
Both sides will claim victory in the parliamentary battle, with Labour hailing May’s move as a “significant 11th-hour concession”.
While the government will hope to use the vote to lock Labour into supporting Article 50 and to expose those MPs who want to vote against Brexit.
Downing Street stressed it would not affect the Government’s Supreme Court battle to overturn a ruling that it needs Parliament’s approval before triggering Article 50, because the vote is on a symbolic motion rather than legislation.
May has so far played her cards close to her chest, on Tuesday committing only to a “red, white and blue Brexit” in an attempt to stamp out speculation about whether the Government is aiming for a “hard” or “soft” Brexit, outside or inside the single market.