Jeremy Corbyn calls for Brexit deadline to be delayed as Labour stance softens further
Jeremy Corbyn has called on Theresa May to delay Brexit until after 29 March, 2019.
The Labour leader said the "unnecessary" deadline could force the Government to sign up to a withdrawal agreement which damages the economy.
His surprise comments come just a day after Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer laid out the party's vision for a soft Brexit.
Under his plans, the UK would continue to pay money to Brussels, maintain the closest possible ties to the single market and maintain of some form of free movement from the EU.
The Prime Minister triggered the two-year Article 50 process earlier this year, formally setting the exit deadline of 29 March, 2019.
Mrs May has also tabled an amendment to the Government's flagship EU Withdrawal Bill which would enshrine that date in law.
But quizzing the Tory leader after she outlined to MPs the details of the Brexit deal struck with the EU last week, Mr Corbyn said: "The Government originally aimed for phase one negotiations to be complete in October, then everything was ready for an announcement on Monday, and ultimately we saw a rather fudged agreement late last week.
"So, has this experience given the Prime Minister reason to consider dropping the unnecessary exit date deadline of the 29 March, 2019 from the EU Withdrawal Bill, because I’m sure, the whole House and probably the whole country would rather get the best possible deal a little bit later if that meant a better deal for peoples’ jobs and the economy."
Mrs May replied: “He started off by saying that he wanted to uphold the referendum and then later in his comments he said he didn’t want to accept the leave date of 29 March, 2019. We’re leaving the European Union on that date, that is what the British people voted for and that is what this government is going to out in place."
Conservative MP Peter Bone said: "We now know from the leader of the opposition that Labour wants to stay in indefinitely."
Meanwhile, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell today insisted that Labour wanted Britain to leave the single market after Brexit, but negotiate the closest possible trading links to the EU afterwards.
He said: "What I said was, remaining in the single market would not respect the referendum result. But we’ve been using the phraseology ‘a single market’, not ‘the single market’ and ‘a customs union’ and not ‘the customs union’. Therefore a reformed single market or a new negotiated relationship with the single market. And Keir was exactly putting our position yesterday. We want to be as close as we possibly can to ensure a tariff-free access.
"It isn’t just about semantics, it’s about achieving the objectives that we want overall, which is protecting the economy and protecting jobs."
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