Wednesday 22 May 2019

PM rules out fourth vote amid 'fury' over 'choice to reach out'

British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images
British Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Gordon Rayner and Jack Maidment

Theresa May effectively ruled out a fourth vote on her Brexit deal, as she was vilified for softening the image of Jeremy Corbyn ahead of a "compromise" with him.

The prime minister said her Withdrawal Agreement had been rejected three times by MPs in Parliament and "right now, as things stand, I can't see them accepting it".

She also ruled out a no-deal Brexit, saying: "The choice that lies ahead of us is either leaving the European Union with a deal, or not leaving at all."

Her remarks came as MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, the shadow business minister, said Labour would "very, very strongly" consider voting to revoke Article 50 if the EU refused an extension.

In her video message to the nation yesterday, Mrs May said she agreed with Labour on a number of issues, including "protecting security" - even though Mr Corbyn, the party's leader, has been previously described by the government as "a threat to national security" because of his support for terrorist groups.

She also said she agreed with Labour on Brexit issues including "ending free movement, ensuring we leave with a good deal and protecting jobs".

In an attempt to justify her talks with Mr Corbyn, which are expected to resume today, Mrs May said: "People didn't vote on party lines when it came to the Brexit referendum, and you know I think often that members of the public want to see their politicians working together more often."

Asked for his reaction to Mrs May's positive words about Mr Corbyn, Peter Bone, the Conservative Eurosceptic MP, said: "Fury doesn't do it justice. Not just me but my campaign meeting on Saturday were appalled. The prime minister said he was not fit for government."

He added: "There are questions about his past and links to the IRA and that sort of thing and they don't understand why she isn't talking to our allies, the DUP, who are keeping us in government, but she has suddenly gone to someone who she says is unfit for government and whose judgment is appalling."

Justine Greening, the former education secretary, said the talks with Mr Corbyn were "toxic", while Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, said teaming up with Mr Corbyn was "potentially disastrous for the nation".

Mrs May used an uncharacteristically personal approach in her latest attempt to explain the Brexit chaos to voters, sitting on a sofa at Chequers rather than standing behind a lectern as she usually prefers.

She said her Brexit deal had been rejected three times by MPs, and "if we cannot secure a majority among Conservative and DUP MPs we have no choice but to reach out across the House of Commons".

The prime minister said a no-deal Brexit had also been rejected by Parliament, which is today expected to finalise a new law that would force Mrs May to request an Article 50 extension to avoid a no-deal exit on Friday - the date Britain is due to leave the EU.

Ms Long-Bailey said if the EU refused to grant an extension to Article 50, leaving Britain with a choice of no deal or no Brexit, Labour would do "all we can" to avoid leaving with no deal, and revoking Article 50 altogether "is something that we would consider very, very strongly".

Mr Corbyn is under fresh pressure from his party to demand a second referendum on any deal that emerges from the talks after 80 Labour MPs wrote to him insisting it should be a condition of any agreement with Mrs May.

Irish Independent

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