England’s World Cup achievements could teach Theresa May’s “shambles of a Government” about the importance of teamwork and having a clear plan, according to Labour.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, deputising at Prime Minister’s Questions, took aim at the Government over Brexit by drawing comparisons with Gareth Southgate’s team and also suggesting they were the equivalent of “Reservoir Dogs remade by the Chuckle Brothers”.
Her remarks came after Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington coupled his congratulations for the Three Lions ahead of their semi-final clash with Croatia with a tongue-in-cheek offer to buy Ms Thornberry an England flag.
Ms Thornberry famously quit the Labour frontbench in 2014 after she sent a “snobby” tweet depicting a terraced house flying the St George’s flag.
After Mr Lidington poked fun at Ms Thornberry about the flag, she replied: “I may know very little about football but even I can see that England’s progress so far in the World Cup shows what can be achieved when all the individual players work effectively as a team, when there’s a clear game plan and when they’re all working together, and of course when everyone respects and listens to the manager.
“So, can I simply ask the minister of state what lessons the England team could teach this shambles of a Government?”
Mr Lidington, to heckling from the Labour benches, countered: “I think the England team does teach some good lessons, which is about the importance of having a clear plan which the team captain has the full support of the squad in delivering.”
He added the Government would publish on Thursday the “full details of the United Kingdom plan for Brexit”.
Mr Lidington added to Ms Thornberry: “Perhaps she will tell us what Labour’s alternative plan is – at the moment that’s one of the best kept secrets in politics.”
Ms Thornberry responded: “Who does he think he’s kidding? Even Donald Trump can see they’re in turmoil and he hasn’t even got to Britain yet.”
The Labour frontbencher then drew howls of laughter from across the House when she likened the Government to “Reservoir Dogs remade by the Chuckle Brothers”.
She later asked the minister to explain how frictionless trade was going to be achieved under the Government’s Brexit plan.
Mr Lidington said: “She will see the detail in the white paper.
“If she’d been listening to the Prime Minister on Monday she will have heard the Prime Minister explain very clearly that we believe a combination of common rules on goods and on agrifood coupled with the facilitated customs arrangement will provide just that.”
Ms Thornberry bemoaned the lack of detail on how the Government’s Brexit plan would work before labelling the Chequers agreement a “total delusion”.
She went on: “The UK cannot set its own tariffs on goods and keep frictionless trade with the EU – the technology to do so doesn’t exist.
“So there will be no divergence on tariffs in the free trade area, no divergence on regulation – it is a customs union in all but name.
“But it doesn’t cover our service industries because, the Government claims, this is the great area of potential to negotiate trade agreements with the rest of the world.”
She asked why China would agree to import more UK services if it cannot agree to lower tariffs on their goods.
Mr Lidington said he believed Ms Thornberry had misunderstood the customs arrangements proposed, adding it is for services where regulatory flexibility “matters most” for current and future trading opportunities.
Ms Thornberry advised the Government against a “half-baked, backdoor version of the customs union” and to get on with negotiating the “real thing”.
Mr Lidington said his counterpart was again silent about Labour’s plans, adding the Opposition’s desire to stay in the customs union would prevent the UK striking new trade deals.
He added: “The Labour Party used to say they respected the referendum result, but now they are toying once again with the idea of a second referendum.
“The Labour leader won’t rule it out, the deputy leader won’t rule it out, the shadow Brexit secretary won’t rule it out and nothing could be better calculated to undermine our negotiating position and lessen our chances of a good deal than holding out that prospect of a second vote.”