Remainer Emily Thornberry is ridiculed after saying she would negotiate the ‘best Brexit deal for Britain’ if Labour wins an election but would then campaign to reject it and stay in the EU

  • Shadow foreign secretary said Labour would negotiate a new deal with Brussels 
  • Emily Thornberry also said she would campaign to Remain and reject her deal 
  • Labour pledged to hold a second Brexit referendum with Remain as an option
  • She was mocked by fellow Question Time panellists as the audience laughed

Labour’s Emily Thornberry said she would negotiate a deal with Brussels if her party won an election but would still campaign for it to be rejected in a second referendum. 

The shadow foreign secretary said last night that despite her desire to stay in the EU, Labour would negotiate a new Brexit deal if it came to power.

But Ms Thornberry added her party would hold a second poll on Britain’s membership, with Remain as an option, and she would campaign to ignore her new deal in favour of revoking Article 50. 

Her suggestion was met with derision and ridicule by other BBC Question Time panellists and audience members, who did not understand the point of negotiating under those circumstances.

Host Fiona Bruce began by asking Ms Thornberry to clarify her position if a general election was held and Labour seized control of Number 10. 

Emily Thornberry said on Question Time last night that she would try and get a better deal with the EU but still campaign to Remain in a second referendum 

LBC radio host Iain Dale ridiculed shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry after she said she would campaign to reject her own Brexit deal 

She said: ‘If you were to win a general election, you would go to Europe, try and get a better deal, have a referendum where Remain is an option. 

‘Would you then be campaigning against your own deal, to Remain against your own deal you negotiated? Or would you be actually saying, no support our deal?’ 

Emily Thornberry replied by suggesting she would campaign to Remain.

She said: ‘Personally, I will campaign to Remain.’

Ms Bruce added: ‘Even if you have negotiated a deal?’ 

Ms Thornberry: ‘I would negotiate a deal to the best of my ability, a deal that will look after jobs and the economy, but the best way to look after jobs and the economy is for us to Remain.’ 

Fellow guest and Conservative MP, Kwasi Kwarteng interjected: ‘And then you’ll campaign against it?’

LBC radio host Iain Dale mocked Ms Thornberry’s response as ‘ridiculous’. 

He said: ‘Do you have any idea how ridiculous that sounds to everybody here? You think people are going to vote for you on that basis. Have you no shame?’

Host Fiona Bruce (centre) questioned Ms Thornberry’s (left) rationale behind negotiating with the EU but then ignoring her party’s own deal 

Conservative MP Kwasi Kwarteng (centre) also mocked Ms Thornberry’s during the heated Question Time debate in Norwich

At this point the audience in Norwich began clapping and laughing at the complicated Labour policy. 

Brexit Party MEP Richard Tice, who was also on the panel, added: ‘Have you any idea how the European Union will treat us if we negotiate in that way? ”Give us a nice deal please, then I’m going to vote not to have it in the first place?” Utterly, Utterly ridiculous.’ 

Last night’s live debate came as Boris Johnson suffered the humiliation of his own brother quitting as an MP and minister over the prime minister’s purging of Tory rebels.

Mr Johnson suffered two Commons defeats in two days as the Opposition succeeded in seizing control of House business in a bid to block a No Deal on Tuesday.

When the prime minister then tried to call a general election on Wednesday night, he failed to get the two thirds majority needed to hold the snap poll. 

In July Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sought to clarify the party’s position by saying he would campaign for Remain in a second referendum held on a Conservative Brexit deal.

Cornered Boris Johnson pays tribute to his ‘fantastic’ brother and admits Brexit issue ‘divides families’ after his sibling QUIT the Cabinet (then PM’s day gets worse when female police cadet collapses behind him after being kept waiting an HOUR)

ByJack Maidment, Deputy Political Editor For Mailonlineand James Tapsfield, Mailonline Political Editor 

Boris Johnson this afternoon tried to put a brave face on his brother’s bombshell decision to quit the government over Brexit as the Prime Minister praised Jo as a ‘fantastic guy’ and a ‘brilliant minister’.

Earlier today it was claimed that the PM had desperately begged his minister brother not to quit the Cabinet in a tense phone call last night.

But Jo pulled the trigger on his departure this morning anyway and dealt his sibling a major body blow as he said he could not square ‘family loyalty and the national interest’.

The premier tried to downplay the significance of his brother’s decision as he told reporters following a speech in Yorkshire that the pair disagreed on Brexit – just like many other families across the UK.

In a moment of drama Mr Johnson’s address was momentarily interrupted as one of the female police cadets providing the backdrop for the speech collapsed, after being kept waiting more than an hour for the late-running PM.

Boris Johnson, pictured in Yorkshire today, called his brother Jo a ‘fantastic guy’ and a ‘brilliant minister’ after he quit the government over Brexit

Meanwhile, the premier dramatically upped the Brexit stakes as he said he would rather be ‘dead in a ditch’ than delay Britain’s departure from the EU.

His comments came as it emerged the PM will see the Queen at Balmoral Castle in Scotland tomorrow as the political crisis deepens. It is expected that his girlfriend Carrie Symonds will join him.

A spokesman stressed it was normal for prime ministers to spend a weekend with the monarch at this time of year and that the trip had been in the diary for a long time.

The news of Jo’s resignation totally blindsided No10 officials, who had apparently not been told by their boss about his brother’s intentions.

A Downing Street spokesman said Jo had been a ‘brilliant talented minister’ and the premier understood it will not have been an ‘easy’ decision.

Mr Johnson is on the Remainer wing of the Tories, having previously resigned from Theresa May’s government accusing her of bungling negotiations with the EU and called for a second referendum.

However, he signed up to the ‘do or die’ pledge to leave the EU by Halloween – with or without a deal – when he joined his brother’s Cabinet in July.

His decision to quit represents another shattering setback for the PM after Remainer MPs boxed him in by passing a law to prevent No Deal.

He has also been blocked by Jeremy Corbyn from calling a snap election to ‘let the people decide’ – leaving him powerless to control Parliament but unable to seek a new democratic mandate.

The government announced this afternoon that another vote on an election will be held on Monday.

Jo Johnson has not expanded on his reasons for resigning, but he is thought to have been infuriated by the PM’s ‘Stalinist purge’ of 21 Remainer rebels this week.

The group of moderate Tory MPs – which included eight former Cabinet ministers – was brutally expelled from the Conservative Parliamentary party after voting in favour of legislation designed to stop the UK crashing out of the EU at Halloween.

Mr Johnson’s address to the nation was momentarily interrupted after one of the police officers standing behind the PM collapsed 

The resignation opens the prospect of a damaging sibling split, which is likely to bring back memories of the clashes between the Miliband brothers.

It came as Mr Corbyn suffered his own set back as he was warned that if he tries to back an early general election before the October 31 Brexit deadline the vast majority of Labour MPs would not vote with him.

Remainers said there was almost ‘unanimity’ in the Parliamentary Labour Party that there should not be a poll before the deadline is extended to rule out No Deal.

The Prime Minister had hoped to use a speech in Yorkshire this afternoon to promote his government’s domestic spending plans which include increasing police officer numbers by 20,000.

But the aftermath of the address was dominated by questions about his brother’s decision to quit.

Asked why anyone should back the PM’s Brexit strategy when even his own brother now feels unable to do so, Mr Johnson replied: ‘I want to pay great tribute… [he] is a fantastic guy and was a brilliant minister for science, for universities, did a fantastic amount of good work for us, for this country, in that area.

‘Jo doesn’t agree with me about the European Union because it is an issue that obviously divides families and divides everybody.

‘But I think what Jo would agree is that we need to get on and sort this thing out.

‘What Jo certainly would agree, and I think he has said as much this afternoon, is that this government has exactly the right priorities when it comes to dealing with the issues that really matter to the British people.’

Boris Johnson (pictured left at No10 today) suffered a shattering blow today as universities minister Jo (outside Parliamanent today) dramatically announced he was quitting

Despite constant declarations of solidarity between them, that division was today proven to be as present as ever between members of the Johnson clan. Pictured left to right are father Stanley, Rachel, Boris and Jo  

The PM was then asked if he expected to be the next member of the Johnson family to resign given the Brexit chaos he is facing in Parliament.

Mr Johnson dodged the question and said he remained committed to delivering Brexit.

‘My intention as I said just now, I am absolutely determined to do this, to deliver on the mandate of the people,’ he said.

‘We have a democracy in this country and the way we work is when the people of Britain take a decision, parliamentarians are sworn to uphold that decision.

Jeremy Corbyn’s U-turn: How Labour leader changed his tune on a general election 

Jeremy Corbyn has been consistently demanding a general election for years.

But now the opportunity has arisen, he suddenly does not seem so keen.  

September 2018, Twitter: ‘We need a General Election and I’m ready for it. Bring it on.’ 

November 2018, CBI speech: ‘If the Government cannot get its central policy through Parliament, then we will demand a general election.’ 

December 2018, Daily Mirror: ‘The Government is going to struggle. It may well resign. There may well be a general election. And I can’t wait.’

May 2019, Twitter: ‘Let the people decide our country’s future: we need a General Election now.’ 

September 2, 2019, speech in Salford: ‘When a government finds itself without a majority the solution is not to undermine democracy. The solution is to let the people decide, and call a general election.’ 

September 3, 2019, House of Commons: ‘Get the Bill through first in order to take No Deal off the table.’ 

‘That is what we all said we would do several times in the House of Commons to respect the result of the 2016 referendum on the EU when people voted by a very substantial majority to Leave.’

Jo Johnson had backed his brother’s campaign for Tory leader, and attended Cabinet as universities minister. However, he was rumoured to have turned down a more senior role in the government.

He made his decision to walk away from the government and to quit politics in general by tweeting: ‘It’s been an honour to represent Orpington for 9 years & to serve as a minister under three PMs.

‘In recent weeks I’ve been torn between family loyalty and the national interest – it’s an unresolvable tension & time for others to take on my roles as MP & Minister. #overandout.’

He told the The Sun later: ‘What is so clearly in the national interest is everything the government is doing in its strong, One Nation domestic policy agenda: more police on the streets, more doctors and nurses in our hospitals, a welcoming face to scientists and international students.

‘That’s exactly what a Conservative prime minister should be doing and what Boris does so well.’

One of the 21 Remainer rebels expelled from the Conservative Party, Ed Vaizey, praised Mr Johnson over his decision today.

‘Great respect for @JoJohnsonUK for what must have been a very difficult decision,’ he said.

Fellow rebel Sam Gyimah said: ‘Honest Jo Johnson is a top talent & will be a big loss to politics…

‘Huge admiration for him in resolving an impossible and painful ”conflict of loyalty” in the national interest.’

A No10 spokesman said: ‘The Prime Minister would like to thank Jo Johnson for his service.

‘He has been a brilliant, talented minister and a fantastic MP. The PM, as both a politician and brother, understands this will not have been an easy matter for Jo.

‘The constituents of Orpington could not have asked for a better representative.’

It is understood that he will now stand down as an MP at the next election.

Their sister Rachel Johnson dismissed claims her family’s arguments over Brexit were becoming increasingly intense.

Jo Johnson pictured with brother Boris on the campaign trail in Orpington this summer 

Jo Johnson in London tonight. He has not expanded on his reasons for resigning, but he is thought to have been infuriated by the PM’s ‘Stalinist purge’ of 21 Remainer rebels this week. 

‘I’m afraid to say this is rubbish,’ she tweeted. ‘I said last night at a charity do that the family avoids the topic of Brexit especially at meals as we don’t want to gang up on the PM!’

In a 2013 interview, Boris Johnson was asked whether he and his brother could ever fall out in the same way as the Miliband brothers.

He said: ‘Absolutely not. We don’t do things that way, that’s a very left-wing thing … only a socialist could regard familial ties as being so trivial as to shaft his own brother.’

The PM also used his speech this afternoon to launch another searing attack on ‘chicken’ Mr Corbyn as he accused the Labour leader of a ‘cowardly attack’ on democracy.

What could the PM do next – and does he have any cards left to play?  

Boris Johnson appears to be quickly running out of options to deliver Brexit after Labour last night voted to block an election on October 15.

The bill to block No Deallooks certain to become law this week, tying the PM’s hands in his pledge to take Britain out of the EU ‘do or die’ on October 31.

Parliament is also due to be suspended early next week, ending fresh opportunities for Mr Johnson to try again to call an election.

Here are his potential courses of action:


Mr Johnson could merely recognise that he has been outflanked by Parliament, and rule out No Deal.

But he has made a ‘do or die’ vow to get the UK out of the bloc by Halloween. And he insists his negotiating strategy would be destroyed without the threat of No Deal.

His political career would be effectively over if he did this, and the Tories could be eaten alive by Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. 


Mr Corbyn did give Mr Johnson a glimmer of light last night by suggesting Labour could vote for an election after the rebel legislation gets Royal Assent – potentially on Monday. That would just about leave time for an October 15 date. 

However, there is no guarantee as Mr Corbyn’s front bench looks to be plunging into civil war over the issue. 

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer told MP earlier that a poll should not be triggered until after a Brexit extension has been granted by the EU. That would require Mr Johnson to beg Brussels, and potentially push the date back well into November.

Similarly, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said the election should not be called for a ‘few weeks’.


Passing a new piece of legislation that triggers an election might be easier than using the existing Fixed Term Parliaments Act. 

It would only need a simple majority, rather than two-thirds of the Commons. 

But Mr Johnson is now in charge of a minority administration, and without Labour support he looks unlikely to have the numbers.

One potential avenue would be splitting the Remainer opposition, perhaps by convincing the SNP to line up behind the government, although the vote would sill be very tight.   


If Labour’s Remain-minded faction wins the internal struggle, and it will not support an election before November, Mr Johnson will really be in a corner. 

There does not appear to be any plausible legal option open to him to force an election. Some have suggested the government could call a no confidence vote in itself, but it is thought the Speaker would only permit one tabled by the official Opposition. 

Some believe his only course could be to see the Queen and tender his resignation. Once it was clear neither Mr Corbyn nor anyone else can command a majority in the House, an election would have to be called. 

But this would be a hugely high-stakes gamble, with the outcome highly uncertain. There is no sign he is ready to take it yet. 

Mr Johnson has been left at the mercy of a raging battle for supremacy within Labour over whether to approve an election once rebel legislation ruling out No Deal has been passed tomorrow night.

Mr Corbyn said in the House yesterday that he backed the idea, which could potentially allow Mr Johnson’s proposed October 15 date for a snap poll still to go ahead.

However, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry have suggested the party should not sign off on a poll before the Halloween Brexit deadline has been extended – which the law dictates must happen by October 19. That could mean a polling date well into November.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell made the extraordinary admission this morning that Labour had yet to decide on its position. ‘We’ve got to get the right date,’ he told Sky News.

He added: ‘We are now consulting about whether it’s better to go long… rather than to go short.’

In a sign of internal tensions, Sajid Javid today suggested Tory Remainer rebels including Ken Clarke and Philip Hammond should be brought back into the party.

The Chancellor said Mr Johnson had no choice but to strip the whip from the 21 Conservative MPs who joined the extraordinary Commons revolt to rule out No Deal this week.

But he said he was ‘sad’ about the situation, and he hoped they would return to the fold ‘at some point’.

The intervention appears to contradict a commitment Mr Johnson gave to Eurosceptic Tories during a meeting last night. The premier told a meeting of the 1922 committee that he would not reverse the decision.

However, Mr Johnson is facing growing disquiet among his own ranks, with one backbencher branding the move expel the rebels as ‘Stalinist’.

Tory MP Simon Hoare said today that there was ‘deep disquiet’ at the handling of the rebellion.

‘We can’t win unless our base is broad and representative of all strands of opinion. No10 needs to rethink and fast,’ he tweeted.

‘I think we are better being like Churchill and NOT Stalin #toriesdontpurge’

Damian Green, a cabinet minister under Theresa May, wrote to Mr Johnson last night accusing him of a ‘purge’ of ‘moderate members’.

Writing on behalf of the 100-strong One Nation caucus, he complained the whip had been removed from ‘principled, valued and dedicated colleagues…all of whom have given years of service to the Party, their constituents and the country.’

‘We are deeply concerned about this, and we are asking you to reinstate the Party whip to these colleagues. If your ambition is to unite the Party and the country, last night’s actions have hindered that mission.’

Mr Green said the caucus could only ‘continue to support’ Mr Johnson ‘wholeheartedly’ if ‘moderate modernising Conservatives are still welcome in the Parliamentary Party.’

The PM is preparing a final throw of the dice to get a national poll by bringing forward another vote on Monday on holding an early election.

After losing the vote on his first election motion last night, a visibly frustrated PM ridiculed the stance taken by Mr Corbyn – who did not even bother to be present for the declaration of the result.

He taunted that he was the first Opposition leader ‘in history’ to turn down the opportunity of a poll.

But crucially, Mr Johnson did not give a clear indication of how he could try to extricate himself from the impasse – merely hinting that he might try staging another vote in the coming days.

Mr Johnson, pictured during a visit to Yorkshire this afternoon, is under pressure to reverse a decision to strip 21 rebel MPs of the Tory whip

That move appeared more likely in the early hours of today after the House of Lords reached an unexpected agreement to allow the rebel No Deal bill to pass by tomorrow evening.

A No10 spokesman said that the PM would ‘speak directly to the nation’ about the political deadlock in this afternoon’s speech.

‘Jeremy Corbyn has led a drive by Parliament to back a Surrender Bill that stops us delivering Brexit, and is also cowardly running away from an election that will give the public the opportunity to decide on the path we follow,’ the spokesman said.

‘Parliament has voted to block Brexit and voted not to give the people the power to decide on their future. Boris will argue that it is now time for the people to decide after Parliament has failed them so we can resolve this once and for all.

‘For Jeremy Corbyn to continue to avoid an election would be a cowardly insult to democracy.’

Labour SPLIT over giving the public an election after Jeremy Corbyn chickened out last night 

Labour descended into a bitter civil war over a snap election today as Jeremy Corbyn faces pressure to block a vote until the Brexit date has been delayed.

Mr Corbyn dramatically thwarted Boris Johnson’s call for an October 15 poll last night despite the PM saying he needed a new mandate because Remainer MPs had ‘wrecked’ his Brexit strategy.

Mr Corbyn said in the House yesterday that he backed the idea, which could potentially allow Mr Johnson’s October 15 date to go ahead.

However, shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry have suggested the party should not sign off on a poll before the Halloween Brexit deadline has been extended – which the law dictates must happen by October 19. That could mean a polling date well into November. 

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell made the extraordinary admission this morning that Labour had yet to decide on its position. ‘We’ve got to get the right date,’ he told Sky News.

He added: ‘We are now consulting about whether it’s better to go long… rather than to go short.’

Yesterday’s vote leaves the Prime Minister in potential purgatory with just a few days to find a solution before Parliament is due to be suspended next week.

Last night aides were frantically casting round for an alternative way to either force an election or kill off the rebel legislation.

One insider said: ‘We underestimated the rebels. We thought there would be some loopholes in the legislation we could wriggle through, but it is much better drafted than we had expected.’

Another acknowledged that even securing an election would be a ‘massive gamble’, saying: ‘Nobody knows how it will pan out.’

The PM needed to get the agreement of two thirds of the House for an early election, but fell far short of the mark with Mr Corbyn ordering his troops to abstain.

Just 298 MPs backed a poll, compared to the 434 required.

The result and the legislation looks to have left Mr Johnson facing disaster, as it now looks like it will be increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for him to keep to his ‘do or die’ Brexit pledge.

His only hope appears to be the astonishing spat on Labour’s front bench about whether it should support a poll next week, after the law against No Deal has been finalised and put on the statute book.

A weary-looking Mr Johnson tried to put a brave face on the dire situation after the vote was declared in the House. ‘I note that the leader of the Opposition is once again not in his place in what I think is a slightly symbolic way,’ he said.

‘Forty eight hours ago he was leading the chants of ”stop the coup, let the people vote”, now he is saying ”stop the election and stop the people from voting”.

‘I think he has become the first Leader of the Opposition in the democratic history of our country to refuse the invitation to an election.

‘I can only speculate as to the reasons behind his hesitation, the obvious conclusion is, I’m afraid, that he does not think he will win.

‘I urge his colleagues to reflect on the unsustainability of this position overnight and in the course of the next few days.’ 

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