This is from my colleague Heather Stewart.
PMQs – Snap verdict
PMQs – Snap verdict: There is an alternative universe where perhaps David Cameron never announced a referendum, or remain won, and politics in 2019 is devoted to the usual arguments about things like the economy, wages, poverty and welfare reform. After a brief and rather gracious statement welcoming her invitation for Brext talks, Jeremy Corbyn took us into this parallel universe for about 15 minutes or so by devoting all his questions to economy/welfare issues. “Parallel universe” is not quite right because it’s the real world, he was describing – Britain in 2019 – and his questions sounded like a reliable canter through what would be the main issues in a (Brexit-free) election campaign. Theresa May seemed happy to engage with Corbyn on this territory, although his talking points were more compelling than hers. But it all felt like a huge distraction from the crisis engulfing the government, and the country, and May came under much more pressure from her own MPs than she did from Corbyn. By my count, seven Tory Brexiters (Davis Amess, David Jones, Lee Rowley, Julian Lewis, Caroline Johnson, Christopher Chope and Nigel Evans) taunted her with varying degrees of anger over her decision last night to embrace Labour in the hope of getting a Brexit deal through parliament. They weren’t calling for her to quit, because she has promised that already, but nevertheless from that wing of the party all respect for her has now vanished. The best question came from Evans, who tried, and failed, to get an assurance from her that the UK would not fight European elections. (See 12.53pm.) Expect to hear a a lot more about this in the coming days. And the other standout question came from the SNP’s Stewart Hosie. He asked May:
After two years of Brexit deadlock, intransigence and a seven-hour cabinet meeting, the best the prime minister can do is invite the leader of the British Labour party to become the co-owner of her Brexit failure. Let me ask her, had she been the leader of the opposition, and invited into a trap like this, would she have been foolish enough to accept?
Hosie did not get a proper answer, but many Labour MPs were probably thinking his analysis was spot on.
And that’s it. PMQs has finally ended, after 56 minutes – almost double the amount of time for which it is scheduled. I’m not keeping count, but that could be a record.
Nick Boles, who resigned the Tory whip, says sitting next to the Lib Dems and the SNP is unusual for him. But he remains a progressive conservative, he says. He asks for an assurance that May will enter the talks with Corbyn without the red lines that have bedevilled the talks so far.
May says she wants to find a resolution to this issue.
May refuses to rule out UK holding European elections if EU insists on long article 50 extension
Nigel Evans, a Tory Brexiter, asks May if she will say “no, no, no” if the EU insist that the UK has to fight European elections to get another article 50 extension.
May says she wants a deal that enables the UK to leave on 22 May, so it does not have to fight the European elections. But that will only happen if MPs vote for a deal, she ways.
- May refuses to rule out the UK holding European elections if the EU insists on a long article 50 extension.
The SNP’s Kirsty Blackman says freedom of movement is good socially and economically, and it is good for young people. Will May be honest about those benefits, and retain them?
May says she wants an immigration system that means people are admitted on the basis of their skills, not on the basis of coming from the EU.
Labour’s Karin Smyth says some government suggestions for schools, like cutting the size of lunches, are unacceptable. They belong in the days of the workhouse.
May says funding for schools is going up.
Labour’s Naz Shah says Sadiq Khan has never had an apology for the Islamophobic campaign the Tories ran against him in 2016. Will May apologise now?
May sidesteps the question, but says the government takes Islamphobia very seriously. It recently held a summit on how to tackle it.
Sir Chrisopher Chope, a Tory Brexiter, says he agrees with the 14 members of the cabinet who said the UK should leave the EU next week with no-deal. What benefits does May expect to see from no-deal?
May says Chope should not believe everything he reads in the papers. (See 10.59am.)
She says the cabinet took a decision collectively yesterday to back her approach.
Caroline Johnson, a Tory, asks about the risk of a no-deal Brexit compared to the risk to the country from a “Marxist, antisemite-led government”.
May says she wants a Brexit deal.
Labour’s Martin Whitfield asks about toilet facilities for people with disabilities.
May says this is a very important issue. The government wants to help people with invisible disabilities who suffer abuse if they use toilets for the disabled (the issue specifically raised by Whitfield).
Julian Lewis, a Tory Brexiter, asks why a PM who repeatedly said no deal was better than a bad deal is now asking Labour MPs to block a WTO Brexit.
May says no deal is better than a bad deal, but she has a good deal.
Last Friday MPs had a chance to vote for that.
She says she wants the UK to leave the EU in an orderly way. That is why she has been sitting down with MPs from across the house.
The SNP’s Stewart Hosie says, after two years of deadlock and a seven hour cabinet meeting, the best she can do is invite Corbyn to become co-owner of her failure. If she were leader of the opposition, would she fall into a trap like this.
May says all MPs should be working on a Brexit solution.
Lee Rowley, a Tory Brexiter, says May said last week Corbyn was the biggest threat to the UK. What qualifies him to be involved in Brexit?
May says every member of the house is involved in Brexit. She wants it to happen in an orderly way, as soon as possible, and without the need for the UK to fight European elections.
Labour’s Preet Kaur Gill asks May if she will speed up the diagnosis time for children with autism.
May says some parents find it very difficult to get help for their children if they have autism. She says the government is reviewing its autism strategy.
Philip Lee, a Conservative pro-European, says over 58% of the public want a final say on Brexit. Are they right?
May says the government should be delivering on the result of the first referendum.