Brexit Still Fuelling Divisions As Jacqui Smith And Isabel Oakeshott Clash

A Brexit deal may be “done”, but animosities between the warring factions in the post-2106 discourse remain.

BBC’s Politics Live on Tuesday was largely devoted to Rishi Sunak agreeing a fresh framework with the European Union to solve the problems caused for Northern Ireland by Boris Johnson’s settlement.

But emotions are still running high, as evidenced when former Labour home secretary Jacqui Smith told Brexiteer Isabel Oakeshott to “shut up” during a heated debate on the show.

The sucker-punch came after Oakeshott criticised Labour shadow cabinet minister Jim McMahon, after he bemoaned the government’s slow progress.

Oakeshott: “It sticks in the throat to hear you complaining about things that should have been done sooner. It is your party, along with others, that have systematically attempted to block Brexit ever happening, as a result of which it has taken a lot longer than it would have done if they had been allowed to get on with the job.”

Smith then jumped in: “I am sorry, as somebody who wishes we had never left the EU, I accept we have, but we were told by you and others campaigning for Brexit that this was all sorted, that we would be able to see the benefits – and you have conceded we have not seen the benefits so far – and we had got an oven ready deal. Here was conclusive proof that we never did have.”

Oakeshott responded by saying: “You spent so many years preventing work on it ...”

After the panellists talked over each other, Smith eventually continued: “We were told that this was all sorted, that we were now in the open waters of Brexit. That clearly wasn’t the case.”

Oakeshott replied: “So you’re thinking of making it more difficult?”

Smith retorted: “Oh Isabel, shut up!”

Oakeshott quickly respond: “Is that your example of civility in politics?”

Smith chairs the trustees for the Jo Cox Foundation, which launched a civility commission to abolish abuse in public life. She later tweeted she had apologised to Oakeshott – which was accepted.

Sunak visited Northern Ireland on Tuesday in an attempt to shore up support for the new deal.

His new framework removes the Northern Ireland Protocol’s barriers on trade across the Irish Sea and hands a “veto” to politicians in the province on EU law – a set of concessions from Brussels that went further than many expected.

But it still includes what Sunak argues is a “small and limited” role for the European Court of Justice.

It was being argued that any resistance to the deal will not result in changes to the framework as reopening an agreement which took months to negotiate is not seen as a workable solution.

With opposition parties offering support, there is little chance of it failing to receive support in parliament when put to a vote.