Brexit: SNP’s Ian Blackford withdraws PM ‘liar’ claim
The SNP’s Westminster leader has formally withdrawn a claim that the prime minister was a “liar” during a House of Commons debate on Brexit.
Ian Blackford shouted the insult as Theresa May said economic analysis of her proposed Brexit deal had been published.
He withdrew the comment after being reprimanded by Speaker John Bercow, but did not apologise to Mrs May.
MPs are banned by Commons rules from calling other MPs liars in the chamber.
The exchange came as Mrs May promised MPs a final, decisive vote on her Brexit deal with the EU – but not until she has secured changes to the Irish backstop clause.
She also denied claims from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that she was attempting to “run down the clock” in an effort to “blackmail” MPs into backing her deal.
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The UK is currently due to leave the EU on 29 March, whether or not a deal has been approved by parliament.
Mr Blackford accused the prime minister of being “lost in a Brexit fantasy” as the EU has already said it will not renegotiate the Brexit deal.
He added: “We are 45 days from Scotland being dragged out of the European Union against her will, 45 days from economic catastrophe.”
Mr Blackford also predicted that Scotland would ultimately have a choice between being an independent nation or “remaining part of an inward-looking UK”.
He went on to ask the prime minister whether she had done an economic assessment of the impact of her deal on the UK economy.
Mrs May responded by saying that “we did publish an economic analysis of the proposals that the government had put forward” – to which Mr Blackford could be heard shouting “that’s not true”.
Mr Blackford was then overheard shouting “liar” after Mrs May said he had “inadvertently misled the house on this matter”.
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After being reprimanded by the Speaker, Mr Blackford said that “in courtesy to you, I withdraw”.
In her statement, Mrs May said she needed “some time” to get the changes she believes MPs want before they vote on her proposals again.
She promised to update MPs again on 26 February and, if she had not got a new deal by then, to give them a say on the next steps in non-binding votes.
And the PM said she was discussing a number of options with the EU to secure legally-binding changes to the backstop: Replacing it with “alternative arrangements”, putting a time limit on how long it can stay in place or a unilateral exit clause so the UK can leave it at a time of its choosing.
The backstop arrangement is the “insurance” policy in Mrs May’s deal to avoid a return to border checks on the island of Ireland.
The prime minister also challenged the SNP to vote for a Brexit deal “in order to support the future of the United Kingdom”.
And she said the prospect of independence “may raise cheers on the SNP benches, but it wouldn’t raise cheers from those people in Scotland whose economic future depends on being a member of the UK.”