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Boiled heads and chlorinated chickens: Standout quotes from an epically odd week on Planet Brexit

That escalated quickly.


The week began with the Taoiseach, when asked about the situation in Westminster, observing that he could say something “today and find out in 48 hours that it’s totally out of date”. 

Fast-forward to two nights later and MPs had voted to reject a no-deal Brexit, 21 ‘rebels’ had been thrown out of the Conservatives by Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn had spurned the prime minister’s bid to call an October general election. 

There was a lot of news to take in and no shortage of politicians, journalists and commentators weighing in with interventions and observations. 


LEO VARADKAR II2A9361_90578862 Source: Eamonn Farrell

“Very volatile and dynamic” – That’s how the Taoiseach summed up how he expected the following few days to go in Westminster. In London later on Boris Johnson set out his stall, after convening an unscheduled Cabinet meeting. 

Johnson said: 

I want everybody to know that there are no circumstances in which I will ask Brussels to delay. We’re leaving on the 31 October, no ifs, no buts. We will not accept any attempt to go back on our promises or scrub that referendum.

“I don’t want an election, you don’t want an election,” Johnson insisted, amid increasing speculation that he intended to seek an election.


VP USA 07_90578959 Source: Sam Boal

As the deadline for Brexit approaches we urge Ireland and the European Union, as well, to negotiate in good faith with Prime Minister Johnson, and work to reach an agreement that respects the United Kingdom’s sovereignty and minimises the disruption to commerce. 

Mike Pence‘s stronger-than-expected remarks on Brexit made his joint press appearance with Leo Varadkar in Farmleigh a somewhat tense affair. 

britain-brexit Source: AP/PA Images

This Conservative government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom.

Phillip Lee (centre, in the photo above) released the above in a statement immediately after crossing the floor of the House of Commons to defect from the Tories to the Liberal Democrats. He carried out his manoeuvre as Boris Johnson began his statement to the House. Lee quit as a junior minister last year over Theresa May’s approach to Brexit. 

Later the same evening, Tory arch-Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg dragged Parnell into the parliamentary debate, as he decried the opposition’s bid to bring in legislation delaying a no-deal Brexit. 

He insisted: 

The approach taken today is the most unconstitutional use of this House since the days of Charles Stewart Parnell, when he tried to bung up Parliament.

Rees-Mogg – who’s sometimes described, either affectionately or otherwise, depending on who’s doing the describing – as the Honourable Member for the 18th Century, took to lounging on the front-bench that same evening.

A photo of him tweeted by a Labour MP has since been retweeted 33,000 times. 

brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

The motion seizing control of the Commons timetable to legislate for the prime minister to seek an extension to Brexit was passed later that night, with the support of Tory rebels.

As election speculation continued to gather pace Johnson insisted:

I don’t want an election. The public don’t want an election. But if the House votes for this bill tomorrow, the public will have to choose who goes to Brussels on October 17 to sort this out and take this country forward.


9170 Global Ireland 2025_90575039 Source: Rollingnews.ie

If there’s an extension looked for, then I think whichever Prime Minister asks for that will need to make a persuasive case as to how that extension can be used to get a deal.

An interesting choice of words from Simon Coveney as he spoke at an Enterprise Ireland event to prepare businesses for Brexit.

Meanwhile, in Westminster, Boris Johnson was beginning to drop the pretence of not wanting an election. Regarding Jeremy Corbyn, he asked the speaker: 

Will he allow the people of this country to decide on what he is giving up in their name with a general election on October 15 – or is he frit?

Johnson, as you may recall, also called the Labour leader a “chlorinated chicken”, and a “great big girl’s blouse”.

During the day’s debate, former chancellor Philip Hammond, a supporter of the anti no-deal legislation, made this memorable contribution: 

I would sooner boil my head than hand power to the leader of the opposition.

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brexit-blouse Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Later that same night, Corbyn’s MPs abstained en masse to deprive Johnson of the election he now so desperately sought. 

The Labour leader had said: 

The offer of the election today is a bit like the offer of an apple to Snow White from the wicked queen. What he’s offering is not an apple or even an election, but the poison of a no deal.

But according to Johnson: 

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.


bor Source: PA Wire/PA Images

Standing in front of rows of police cadets in Yorkshire, Johnson insisted he would rather be “dead in a ditch” than have to seek another Brexit extension. 

He also faced questions about the resignation of his brother Jo, announced earlier that day. The younger Johnson said he was to quit as junior minister and MP, tweeting: 

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 the threat of a no-deal continued to rise, the Taoiseach issued some stark no-deal Brexit warnings at a British Irish Chamber of Commerce event. 

There will still be plenty of food on shelves but perhaps not all of the same brands.
There will be checks on goods and live animals and, as far as possible, they will take place in ports, airports and at businesses.  But some may need to take place near the border.


Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin called for the government to publish everything it planned to do in the event of a no-deal. Speaking in New Ross he said

I think it is long past time for the government to publish everything it has about no deal preparations. Let’s see the full details. Without the spin and with the full costs and administrative arrangements outlined.

brexit Source: PA Wire/PA Images

As Boris Johnson‘s woes continued a Downing Street spokesperson declined to say whether the PM would quit if he was unable to take the UK out of the EU, when asked by The Independent

Johnson himself said, on a visit to Aberdeenshire, that resigning if the country did not leave the EU by Halloween was “not a hypothesis I want to contemplate”.

About the author:

Daragh Brophy

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