‘LABOUR’S plan is for Britain and the European Union (EU) to negotiate a permanent customs union to protect jobs and manufacturing,’ Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn insisted in the House of Commons yesterday.
He was speaking in Parliament after PM May made a statement on the Brexit negotiations with the EU, as they are to reach their climax on Wednesday. Making a further overture to May, Corbyn said: ‘The Prime Minister faces a simple and inescapable choice: Be buffeted this way, and that way, by the chaos of her own party or back a deal that can win the support of parliament and the people of this country.’
He continued: ‘The Prime Minister must stop the excuses. There is a Brexit deal that could command the support of parliament and the country, a Brexit deal that would benefit Britain and allow us to re-build our communities, rejuvenate our economy and avoid any hard border in Northern Ireland. But that isn’t her deal.
‘And as we reach a critical point in this nation’s history, we need a prime minister who will for once make the right decision and put the country before her party and stand up to reckless voices on her backbenches and within her cabinet. ‘For too long this country has been held hostage to those in her party who want to drive through a race to the bottom Brexit deal, that lowers rights and standards, sells off our national assets to the lowest bidder.
‘It is clear that the Prime Minister’s failure to stand up to the warring factions within her party have led to this impasse.’ He added: ‘Isn’t it the case that the backstop is only necessary because the government won’t agree to a new comprehensive customs union with the EU with a say with Britain in future trade deals?’
May replied: ‘This a government that is determined to deliver on the vote of the British people, unlike the opposition that wants to frustrate the people’s vote and frustrate Brexit.’
In her statement, May suggested that she would accept a customs union as long as it is not ‘permanent’. She said: ‘I need to be able to look the British people in the eye and say this backstop is a temporary solution. People are rightly concerned that what is only meant to be temporary could become a permanent limbo. ‘I am clear we are not going to be trapped permanently in a single customs territory unable to do meaningful trade deals.
‘So it must be the case that the backstop must not need to come into force. Second that if it does it must be temporary, and third, while I do not believe this to be the case, if the EU would not agree to cooperate on our future relationship, we must be able to ensure that we cannot be able to be kept in this backstop arrangement indefinitely.’
In the discussion Tory Remainer Anna Soubry MP said: ‘If this is not working and it seems that it is not, then the only option I can see available, is to take it back to the people and have a people’s vote.’ May refused that option, saying that the people have voted and decided in the 2016 referendum.