May rejects pivot towards Brexit customs union compromise

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Theresa May to accept his alternative plan for

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged Theresa May to accept his alternative plan for

"What's happening here is not a shifting of red lines", Rory Stewart, the prisons minister, told BBC Breakfast.

The prime minister queried his call for the United Kingdom to stay in a customs union with the EU - but welcomed more talks with Labour on a Brexit agreement.

But asked if May was looking at some sort of compromise with the opposition leader, Stewart said: "Yes".

"I don't think that would be good enough", he said.

In a letter to Tory Party chair Brandon Lewis, the activists said any attempt to work with Labour to secure a deal or renege on manifesto commitments would be "catastrophic" for the party and lead to "severe electoral defeats" in the forthcoming May local elections.

But in an apparent renewed bid to win over wavering Labour MPs, May made a concession on environmental and workers' rights, discounting Corbyn's idea of automatic alignment with European Union standards but suggesting instead a Commons vote every time these change.

Stewart said: "What she is saying is that we have a lot if common ground, a lot more common ground perhaps than people have acknowledged, on things like environmental protections, workers' rights, making sure that we get investment into areas of the country which haven't done as well out of the last few years as other parts of the country".

Simon Coveney has said what Ireland wants is certainty.

If May had hinted she could accept a customs union it would have risked splitting her party.

His intervention came after Treasury Chief Secretary Liz Truss refused to rule out resigning if Mrs May backed a customs union. She told Sky's Sophie Ridge on Sunday: "I absolutely do not think that should be our policy". "You can see this right the way through parliament".

The letter concludes with Mrs May saying she looked forward to the two parties meeting "as soon as possible".

"It is very clear from the European Union that non-EU members do not have a say in EU trade policy so to pretend that you could do so is a risky delusion".

In her letter, Mrs May said she wanted discussions between Tory and Labour teams to start considering "alternative arrangements" to the backstop contained within the withdrawal agreement.

Mr Barclay will later travel to Brussels for talks over dinner with the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier.

In her letter to Corbyn, May argued that her own Brexit plan "explicitly provides for the benefits of a customs union" in terms of avoiding tariffs, while allowing "development of the UK's independent trade policy beyond our economic partnership with the EU".

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