MPs told it's fine to use the word 'b******s' in the Brexit debate after Michael Gove mocks Labour's position

Patrick Grafton-Green

MPs have been told they can use the word “b******s” in the Brexit debate after Michael Gove used it in the House of Commons to mock Labour’s position.

The environment secretary told MPs on Thursday he agreed with shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner, who reportedly referred to Labour's official position in the same way.

Praising Mr Gardiner’s "truth and perfect clarity", Mr Gove said the Commons was grateful for his casting of light on "the testicular nature" of the party’s six Brexit tests.

He said: "He summed them up, pithily, in a word which in Spanish translates as 'cojones' and in English rhymes with 'rollocks'.

Michael Gove referred to Labour's Brexit plans as

"I know, Mr Speaker, there are some distinguished citizens in this country who have put on their cars a poster or sticker saying 'b******s to Brexit' - but we now know from Labour's own frontbench that their official Brexit position is b******s."

Mr Gove added: "I have to say that the shadow international trade secretary is a jewel and an ornament to the Labour front bench.

Countdown to Brexit: 78 days until Britain leaves the EU

"He speaks the truth with perfect clarity, and in his description of Labour's own policy can I say across the House we're grateful to him, grateful to the constant Gardiner for the way in which he has cast light on the testicular nature of Labour's position."

Liberal Democrat former minister Sir Edward Davey called a point of order, asking whether Speaker John Bercow had "made a new ruling on Parliamentary language which I am not aware of?"

Mr Bercow said Mr Gove had not been disorderly and use of the word was "a matter of taste".

He said: "I have made no new ruling on Parliamentary language and I was listening, as colleagues would expect, with my customary rapt attention to the observations of the Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs.

"I richly enjoyed those observations and particularly his exceptionally eloquent delivery of them, which I feel sure he must have been practising in front of the mirror for some significant hours."

"Yes, there was nothing disorderly about the use of the word - I think it is a matter of taste," he added.

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Opening debate for the day, Brexiteer Mr Gove said compromise was inevitable with any Brexit deal and insisted Mrs May's agreement "honours the referendum result" and protects the "interests of every British citizen".

He went on to defend the Northern Ireland backstop, saying: "One of the opportunities that the citizens of Northern Ireland have as a result of this deal is to have unimpeded access, not just to the rest of the UK market, which is essential for the maintenance of our union, but also unimpeded access to the rest of the European Union."

The cabinet minister also warned that a no-deal would see "economic turbulence", at least in the short term, and that tariffs of up to 40 per cent would "absolutely" be applied by the EU to certain goods.

He later claimed other European countries will be envious of the UK's deal with the EU.

Mr Gove said: "I think other countries will be envious of the position that we will be in because I think it will be the case, for the sake of argument, that some Italian politicians will look at our ability to have quota and tariff-free access to their markets, and yet at the same time be out of the jurisdiction of the ECJ and to have full control of our borders and to be paying no money."