(CN) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was under pressure Thursday to apologize for yet another performance in Parliament that saw him ruthlessly attacking opponents and provoking outrage in his bullish drive to force the United Kingdom out of the European Union by the end of October.
Johnson was in Parliament Wednesday evening for the first time since the Supreme Court ruled a day earlier that his prorogation of Parliament was unlawful. His appearance capped a stormy day of attacks and counterattacks between Johnson’s Conservative Party and their opponents, with many commentators saying they had never seen such bitter partisanship in the House of Commons.
For three hours Wednesday evening, Johnson showed no contrition as he blasted Parliament for seeking to stop the United Kingdom from leaving the European Union with or without a deal on Oct. 31. He also said the Supreme Court was wrong to rule against him.
“This Parliament doesn’t want Brexit to happen at all,” he said, jabbing his finger toward the opposition benches. “I think the people of this country can see very clearly what is going on.”
He launched a tirade against his opponents, calling them undemocratic for seeking to stop his government from leaving the EU on Oct. 31, as he has promised, and for attempting to overturn the 2016 referendum result.
“The leader of the opposition and the opposition do not trust the people,” Johnson said. “All that matters now is an obsessive desire to overrule the result of the referendum.”
By comparison, Johnson put himself on the side of “the people.”
“We will not betray the people who sent us here,” he said.
He once again challenged the Labour Party, the main opposition, to open the way for a general election. He said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was afraid to push for an election because he was worried about losing. He said Labour had “turned tail and fled from an election” and was unwilling to “face the day of reckoning.”
“Come on, come on then!” he said, staring hard at Corbyn. “Out of sheer selfishness, and cowardice, members opposite are unwilling to move aside and give the people a say.
“What are they scared of?” he went on. “Let’s get Brexit done so we can start to reunite this country.”
In response, Corbyn accused Johnson of placing himself above the law. Corbyn said he is unwilling to call for an election until Parliament can be sure the UK will not be forced to leave the EU on Oct. 31 without a deal. Opposition parties say they cannot trust Johnson and that he could seek to bypass Parliament’s will and force the UK out of the EU without a deal if an election is called before a Brexit delay has been secured.
“This was 10 minutes of bluster from a dangerous prime minister who thinks he is above the law,” Corbyn said. He blasted Johnson for showing “no shred of remorse” after the Supreme Court ruled he had unlawfully suspended Parliament.
The Labour leader called on Johnson to resign following the Supreme Court ruling.
“He should have done the honorable thing and resigned,” Corbyn said, sparking others to call out, “Resign! Resign!”
Later, Labour members accused Johnson of stoking tensions in the country and even violence by portraying his opponents as “traitors.”
Opponents said Johnson’s inflammatory language was leading to death threats and causing them to fear for their lives.
In condemning Johnson’s language, one Labour member, Paula Sherriff, invoked the memory of Jo Cox, an anti-Brexit Labour member murdered by a far-right sympathizer shortly before the 2016 referendum. She called on Johnson to stop using the kind of “offensive, dangerous and inflammatory language” that fuels hatred toward parliamentarians who receive “death threats and abuse every single day.”
“Let me tell the prime minister, they often quote his words: ‘Surrender act, betrayal, traitor,’ and I for one am sick of it. We must moderate our language and it has to come from the prime minister first. … He should be absolutely ashamed of himself,” Sherriff said with emotion.
In response, Johnson said: “I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I have never heard such humbug in all my life.”
Later, Tracy Brabin, a Labour member who was elected to replace Cox, also asked Johnson to moderate his language “so that we can all feel secure going about our jobs.”
Johnson set off a storm of protest when he got up and replied that “the best way to honor the memory of Jo Cox and to bring this country together is, I think, to get Brexit done.”
(Courthouse News reporter Cain Burdeau is based in the European Union.)