May urges Corbyn to work with Government to agree Brexit deal

Jeremy Corbyn has been urged to work with the Government to agree a compromise deal to break the Brexit deadlock.

Prime Minister Theresa May urged the Labour leader to put his differences aside, while International Development Secretary Rory Stewart said the ball was in Mr Corbyn’s court.

Mr Stewart told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “I think a deal can be done, a lot of this rests on, to be honest, one man: whether Jeremy Corbyn really wants to deliver a Brexit deal.

Rory Stewart
Rory Stewart

“But I think if he wants to do it it will be actually surprisingly easy to do because our positions are very, very close.”

The newly-appointed Cabinet minister also said his party was “keen to get a good Brexit deal done as soon as possible”, and conceded that the Government’s handling of Britain’s exit from the EU was responsible for his party’s drubbing at the local elections.

“Labour and Conservatives at the moment are suffering from this whole Brexit thing – tortuous, sort of endless, Brexit thing and we’ve got to get beyond it.”

Mr Stewart also warned that if the Tories tried to “outdo” Nigel Farage then it could lose four million Conservative Remain-supporting voters.

“We’ve got to be a broad party. We’ve got to be able to stretch all the way from Ken Clarke right the way through to Jacob Rees-Mogg.”

He also confirmed that he would run to be the next prime minister when Mrs May stands down, but said: “I am now so excited to be the International Development Secretary.”

The Prime Minister, writing in the Mail on Sunday, issued a rallying cry to MPs urging them to support cross-party efforts to “break the deadlock” and get a deal through the Commons.

She said she understood why some of her colleagues found the decision to hold talks with Labour “uncomfortable”, and admitted it was not what she wanted either.

But she said the crushing blow voters delivered on both parties at the local elections had given “fresh urgency” to the need to end the impasse.

“To the leader of the opposition, I say this: let’s listen to what the voters said in the elections and put our differences aside for a moment. Let’s do a deal,” she wrote.

“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.”

Elsewhere Brexit Party leader Mr Farage challenged Mr Corbyn to a debate ahead of the European elections, warning a deal between Labour and the Tories would be the “final betrayal”.

Nigel Farage challenges Jeremy Corbyn to a debate ahead of European elections. #Ridge

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— Ridge on Sunday (@RidgeOnSunday) May 5, 2019

He told Sky: “There are five million voters out there, Labour voters, who voted to leave, particularly in the Midlands, the north, and south Wales.

“I would love between now and polling to have a debate with Jeremy Corbyn about this because people are very confused about what Labour are standing for.”

Shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said the Government was trying to re-dress their customs union offer and has not really shifted its position.

“The key thing is the Government want to be able to do their own trade deals and my concern is that if we have a trade deal with the United States, for example, that could mean Trump’s America and big private healthcare corporations getting their hands on NHS contracts,” he told Sky.

“I’m not prepared to countenance that: it’s why we need instead a permanent and comprehensive customs union arrangement where we do our trade deals as part of the European Union.”

With talks between Labour and the Tories expected to resume early next week, the Sunday Times reported that Mrs May was prepared to give ground in three areas: customs, goods alignment and workers’ rights.

The paper said the Prime Minister would put forward plans for a comprehensive but temporary customs arrangement with the EU that would last until the next general election.

It came as more than 100 opposition MPs from five parties wrote to the PM and Mr Corbyn to say they would not support a “Westminster stitch-up” and would vote against a customs union unless it is put to a referendum.

The MPs said: “The very worst thing we could do at this time is a Westminster stitch-up whether over the PM’s deal or another deal. This risks alienating both those who voted leave in 2016 and those who voted remain.”