UK PM Boris Johnson said he believes the Supreme Court was “wrong” to rule his decision to prorogue a “paralyzed parliament” and accused the opposition of “sabotaging” Brexit, as shouts and boos rocked the House of Commons.
In a raucous statement to the Commons on Wednesday, a day after the UK’s highest court ruled his suspension of parliament “unlawful, void and of no effect,” Johnson spent minutes haranguing the opposition before addressing the court decision, defying calls to resign and daring MPs to call a no-confidece vote and general election.
Johnson slammed opposition politicians for “three years of dither and delay” and said they wanted the country to be “locked forever in the orbit of the EU.” The PM reiterated that he wanted to strike a deal with Brussels before the October 31 deadline, but that he was willing to leave “without [a deal] if necessary.”
Johnson said that he will not seek a Brexit extension, even if the conditions of a Labour Party bill mandating an extension if a deal is not reached by October 19 are met.
His speech was interrupted repeatedly by disapproving shouts from the opposition, prompting Speaker John Bercow to lash out at MPs for scandalizing the hearing and not thinking how the Parliament is perceived by people watching the session.
Johnson at one point exhorted opposition MPs to honor the memory of Labour MP Jo Cox by getting “Brexit done,” a statement that triggered howls of derision from across the chamber. Cox was a Remainer, and was shot and stabbed to death a week before the Brexit vote in 2016.
His opponents too cited Cox’ name when calling out the Prime Minister for “inflamatory language,” by framing an anti-no deal Brexit bill as a “surrender bill.” Labour MP Paula Sherriff accused Johnson of stirring up the same hatred that saw Cox murdered, to which Johnson replied “humbug” and accused her of formenting “synthetic” outrage.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called Johnson’s speech “ten minutes of bluster” from a “dangerous” PM who “thinks he is above the law” but is “not fit” to hold office. Corbyn said the verdict represents an “extraordinary and precarious moment” in history.
Johnson accused anti-Brexit MPs of “running to the courts” to “block and delay” Brexit and said Corbyn and his party “do not trust the people.”
Corbyn also reiterated his call from Tuesday that the PM should resign, saying that “for the good of this country, [Johnson] should go.”
The shouting, name-calling and vitriolic accusations – which perhaps surpassed the usual intensity of British parliamentary squabbles – will likely pick back up tomorrow, when the House of Commons is set to debate “the principles of democracy and the rights of the electorate,” and to vote on a motion to adjourn parliament for the Conservative Party’s annual conference next week.