Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
29 March 2017updated 01 Aug 2021 7:26am

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t ask a single question about Brexit

On the day Article 50 is triggered, the Labour leader neglects to hold the Prime Minister to account on the UK’s future outside the European Union.

By Anoosh Chakelian

The entirety of British politics since the EU referendum campaign began was symbolised in today’s bout of PMQs. Theresa May’s studied banality, Jeremy Corbyn’s missed opportunities, and the SNP triumphantly filling the vacuum.

Today’s weekly round of questioning fell on the same day as Article 50 being triggered. A historic move by our government, notifying the European Union that the UK will be departing after more than 40 years of membership. A decision that lobs Britain’s future into the unknown – the country’s history, culture, economic stability, and price of a pint of milk, teetering on a cliff-edge.


BBC Parliament screengrab

Yet Jeremy Corbyn decided not to ask Theresa May about her plan for Britain’s exit. Yes, he will get a chance to give his view to the Commons following the Prime Minister’s imminent statement on Brexit. Yes, the subjects Corbyn chose to bring up – real-terms cuts in police spending, and the daft hacking away at schools budgets – are worthy.

But PMQs is a chance for opposition parties to very publicly hammer the Prime Minister on policy failings of the day. To have the first word and put her on the spot, to put her in an uncomfortable political position, in a way that is more difficult to do in a response to a Commons statement. And the PM should be given as few free passes as possible on this subject.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

This was a chance for the Labour leader to at least create the façade of opposition to the hard Tory Brexit that most progressive voters in this country are desperate for our politicians to counter, and to which Labour is ostensibly opposed.

Instead, it was – as ever – left to the SNP to attack the Prime Minister on Brexit. The party’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, was the first MP in PMQs to challenge May on her lack of a Brexit plan. Not a good look for Corbyn.

Even if he will respond to May’s Commons statement, he missed the opportunity to unpick the deplorably political and reckless approach the PM is taking to Brexit via the first-word direct questioning afforded by PMQs. Yet more proof that Labour has never been wholly serious about holding the government to account on Britain’s post-EU future, preferring the comfort of passively watching the mess unfold.

Content from our partners
Helping children be safer, smarter, happier internet explorers
Power to the people
How to power the electric vehicle revolution