May makes desperate appeal to Corbyn to do a deal as she urges Tories to swallow customs union – but Brexiteers condemn it as ‘abject surrender’ and say it will wipe out the party for a generation
- Theresa May is making an appeal to Jeremy Corbyn to ‘do a deal’ over Brexit
- She urges her party to accept the ‘stepping stone’ of a customs union
- Mrs May hopes a deal could avoid UK taking part in the European elections
Theresa May today begs Jeremy Corbyn to ‘do a deal’ over Brexit – as she urges her party to accept the ‘stepping stone’ of a customs union as the price for finally leaving the EU.
The Prime Minister uses an article in today’s Mail on Sunday to appeal directly to the Labour leader to reach an agreement. She hopes such a deal could avoid the UK having to take part in the European Parliament elections on May 23.
But last night, Tory Eurosceptics reacted with fury to the plan for a so-called ‘customs framework’ or ‘customs arrangement’, describing it as ‘abject surrender’.
Theresa May today begs Jeremy Corbyn to ‘do a deal’ over Brexit – as she urges her party to accept the ‘stepping stone’ of a customs union as the price for finally leaving the EU
Downing Street hopes that Mr Corbyn’s poor showing in Thursday’s local elections, when Labour lost dozens of seats in heartland Leave-voting areas, will motivate him to strike a deal.
Do they have the numbers?
The hopes of Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn of achieving a controversial customs union Brexit will rest on whether they can bring the so-called ‘middle 400’ MPs on board.
Those are the Tory, Labour and other MPs who just want a Brexit deal passed to avoid either No Deal or a second referendum.
If the Prime Minister can get most of the 270 pro-deal Tories to back her and Mr Corbyn can cajole even half of his 246 MPs to follow him, the deal may yet get through.
The Tories were also punished over the Brexit impasse, losing 1,300 seats – their worst result in 24 years.
Mrs May writes that ‘reaching an agreement will require compromise from both sides’ – but promises her MPs that if the UK enters the ‘arrangement’ now in order to secure cross-party support, they will be able to unpick it at a future date.
‘This deal will be a stepping stone to a brighter future, outside the EU, where the UK can determine the road ahead,’ she says. ‘This is because no parliament can bind its successor.’
She adds: ‘To the Leader of the Opposition, I say this: let’s listen to what the voters said in the local elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal.’
As The Mail on Sunday revealed last month, Tory negotiators have told Labour that the Government would accept UK membership of a customs union – a red line for Brexiteers – but on condition that they called it something else to avoid inflaming party anger. One source said: ‘It must look like a duck and quack like a duck, but it doesn’t have to be called a duck.’
Gove and The Saj play their leadership cards
Values: Michael Gove makes his pitch in Scotland
Two leading contenders to replace Theresa May made major pitches for the keys to No 10 yesterday as the battle for the Tory leadership intensified.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove gave an emotionally charged address to the Scottish Conservatives in Aberdeen, where he was raised by adoptive parents.
In a well-received speech in which he gave his clearest hint yet that he is preparing to run to be Prime Minister, Mr Gove set out a vision of how he would lead the country based on the values taught to him by his mother and father.
He said his parents’ values included: ‘A belief that business is a force for good. A faith in education as a good in itself. A compassion for those less fortunate, which leads to action not just words. A big heart that they don’t want to wear on their sleeve. A willingness to take risks and believe the best in others. A basic sense of justice, combined with a readiness to forgive.’
He later refused to rule out running in the looming contest when asked by The Mail on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Sajid Javid also used his life story to set out his stall. In a clear pitch to the Left of the party and Labour voters, he spoke at the Welsh Conservative Party conference about how the state had helped him rise up from being a working class child in Rochdale to a City high-flyer.
Straying way beyond his Home Affairs brief, he said: ‘Health, education, work and pensions. For many in Westminster, these are the names of departments to be managed. But for my family growing up, they were our lifelines, and ultimately the ladder to my success.’
Referring to his brothers, he added: ‘They’re one reason that my parents, themselves raised by dollar-a-day farmers in rural Pakistan, could go on to raise a chief superintendent, an entrepreneur, a finance professional and a Cabinet Minister.’
Government sources insisted last night that an ‘arrangement’ would differ from a union in that the UK would still be free to strike trade deals with non-EU countries. It could also be written directly into the Withdrawal Agreement Bill without approval from Brussels.
But former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith branded the idea of a customs union deal as ‘total anathema’. He said: ‘The idea we would leave the EU but have the EU decide all our future trading arrangements, decide what our tariffs are – basically, that’s the most ridiculous position to be in.’
Mr Duncan Smith added: ‘The election result was so devastating that the Prime Minister now has to consider herself a caretaker PM.
‘She must now move fast to resolve this matter of leadership urgently because everywhere you went [during campaigning], the element of trust in the PM had completely broken down.
‘The idea that she is now able to do a deal with an equally discredited Labour Party is ridiculous.’ And Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the Tory party’s Brexiteer European Research Group, condemned a customs union deal as ‘symbolic of an attempt by the political establishment to avoid Brexit, to have a pretend Brexit.’ He also appeared to suggest it was Cabinet Secretary Sir Mark Sedwill who was making the decisions, not Mrs May. ‘She seems at the moment to have such authority as the Cabinet Secretary allows her,’ Mr Rees-Mogg said.
Tory arch-Brexiteer Peter Bone said any customs union deal would amount to ‘an abject surrender’. He added that in the wake of the local election results, his Wellingborough Tory association executive had called on Mrs May to resign by May 23 and for Brexit to happen on No Deal/World Trade Organisation terms. The warning was echoed by Alanna Vine, chairman of the Cheadle Tory association, who said: ‘If we don’t change course, bin the non-Brexit withdrawal agreement, prepare properly for a WTO deal, immediately cease discussions with Corbyn about remaining in the EU Customs Union and stop endlessly extending our leaving date, our party will be wiped out for a generation.’
In her MoS article, Mrs May apologises to Tory councillors who lost their seats, saying: ‘Voters delivered their judgment in large part based on what is happening – or not happening – at Westminster. And, as Prime Minister, I fully accept my share of the responsibility for that.’
She adds: ‘The Government has been in talks with the Opposition to try to find a unified, cross-party position. We have to find a way to break the deadlock – and I believe the results of the local elections give fresh urgency in this.’
Now that’s what you call a people’s vote!
The scale of grassroots anger over the Government’s failure to deliver Brexit was reflected in the blizzard of spoilt ballot papers across the nation in Thursday’s local elections.
A social media campaign, using the hashtag SpoilYourBallot, led to thousands of voting papers being scrawled with ‘Brexit Party’ and ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Others said: ‘None of these deliver Brexit.’ One ballot paper, in Staffordshire, had written next to Jeremy Corbyn’s candidate: ‘Led by a terrorist sympathiser.’ Next to the Tory candidate were the words: ‘Theresa May betrayed Brexit.’
Other voting slips stated simply, again in reference to Brexit: ‘Traitors.’
My Message to Jeremy Corbyn: Let’s do a deal
By Prime Minister Theresa May
In the local elections, many Conservative councillors lost their seats. I want to thank all of my colleagues for their tremendous hard work and dedication to public duty, and for all they did to improve the lives of the communities which they served.
I have been a councillor and I know what a rewarding and important job it is.
They did not deserve what happened and I am sorry.
It is clear that the voters delivered their judgment in large part based on what is happening – or not happening – at Westminster. And, as Prime Minister, I fully accept my share of the responsibility for that.
It is clear that the voters delivered their judgment in large part based on what is happening – or not happening – at Westminster
The voters expect us to deliver on the result of the referendum and, so far, Parliament has rejected the deal which I have put forward.
The March 29 exit date has been delayed, the public is frustrated – and I fully understand why.
Three years have passed now since the historic 2016 vote and people really do just want us to get on with it.
But the electorate delivered a message on Brexit to Labour, too. Labour also lost seats and councils which it has held for decades.
Clearly, the public is fed up with the failure of both of the two main parties to find a way to honour the result of the referendum, take the United Kingdom out of the European Union and to bring our country back together again.
There is no use trying to escape the facts, however uncomfortable they may be. I have tried, tried and tried again to deliver Brexit with the votes of Conservative MPs and our confidence and supply partners, the DUP.
I negotiated with the EU what I believe is a very good deal for the UK – a deal which allows us to genuinely take back control of our money and our laws.
The free movement of people will end – giving us control of our own borders for the first time in decades. However, I could not persuade enough of my colleagues to vote for the Withdrawal Agreement and, regrettably, I have to accept there is no sign of that position changing.
Pictured: Theresa May arrives to cast her vote at a polling station
Meanwhile, the series of indicative votes which MPs held did not deliver any path forwards. Parliament said what it didn’t want – but not what it was prepared to vote for.
Since then, the Government has been in talks with the Opposition to try to find a unified, cross-party position. I understand many of my colleagues find this decision uncomfortable. Frankly, it is not what I wanted, either.
But, as elected politicians, who asked the public to give us an instruction on whether to leave the EU, we cannot now shrug our shoulders and say it’s all too difficult.
We have to find a way to break the deadlock – and I believe the results of the local elections give fresh urgency to this.
The talks with Labour so far have been serious. We don’t agree with the Opposition on lots of policy issues, but on Brexit there are areas we do agree on – leaving with a good deal that protects jobs and our security and ends free movement.
But there are also differences on precisely what the UK’s future relationship with the EU should look like, so reaching an agreement will require compromise from both sides.
We will keep negotiating, with more formal talks due to take place on Tuesday, and keep trying to find a way through.
Because the real thing that matters now is delivering Brexit and moving on to all the other issues people care about. The longer that takes, the greater the risk we will not leave at all. We need to get out of the EU and get a deal over the line.
To MPs, I would say this: if we are able to negotiate a cross-party agreement, this deal will be a stepping stone to a brighter future, outside the EU, where the UK can determine the road ahead.
This is because no parliament can bind its successor.
Some people would prefer a less close relationship with the EU in the future, while others would prefer a closer relationship.
The key point is, the ultimate decision-maker in everything we do is Parliament. So future parliaments, with a different party balance, will be able to decide whether they want a closer or more distant relationship with the EU.
I do sincerely believe that – more than 34 long months on from the referendum – what people want is for their politicians to come together in the national interest and get Brexit over the line.
And to the Leader of the Opposition, I say this: let’s listen to what the voters said in the local elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal.
Source: Read Full Article