Tory ex-Cabinet minister says party can 'do business' with Jeremy Corbyn on Brexit
A Tory ex-Cabinet minister today said his party could “do business with” Jeremy Corbyn to break the Brexit deadlock at Westminster.
Sir Oliver Letwin argued the Government should have “a grown up discussion with people from across the chamber” in a bid to head off a no-deal departure from the EU next week.
Theresa May last night sparked anger when she announced she would meet with the Labour leader in the hope the pair can broker a Brexit compromise that might win the support of the Commons.
It means the Prime Minister could back keeping the UK in a permanent customs union with the bloc - a price Mr Corbyn has been demanding for months.
Sir Oliver - who served in the Cabinet under David Cameron - has helped pen a Commons bid to seize parliamentary control from the Government and block a no-deal Brexit.
This morning he said striking a pact with the Labour boss was worth it to avoid the feared economic chaos of quitting the EU on 12 April without an agreement in place.
“I think he is somebody that we can do business with,” he told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.
He said the two parties had “profound political differences” but argued there were “many sensible people” on the opposition benches who were “devoted to the best interests of this country”.
And he added: “This is a set of issues on which we can reach a sensible, workmanlike agreement that fulfils the referendum mandate that has an orderly exit from the EU.”
But Sir Oliver was blasted by pro-Brexit Tory MP Marcus Fysh, who said on Twitter that he was “not fit to be an MP, let alone one destroying our constitution”.
Meanwhile, Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey said her party could “certainly” troop through the voting lobbies with Theresa May if she met the Labour demands on Brexit.
Elsewhere, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay admitted the Government could sign up to a permanent customs union with the EU - leaving the UK unable to strike its own trade deals around the world.
He said the option was “highly undesirable” but insisted the Government was “not setting preconditions” for the talks with Mr Corbyn, due to take place this afternoon.
On the same radio programme, he argued: “It’s undesirable but it is the remorseless logic of the House of Commons.
“If the Prime Minister’s deal won’t go through and no deal in law is taken off the table then the consequences of that is either a softer Brexit or no Brexit at all.”
Mr Barclay also left the door open to backing a fresh EU referendum on any compromise deal, although he did note there were “certain things that will be very difficult,” adding: “This isn’t a blank cheque.”
Mrs May has angered members of her Cabinet, pro-Brexit Tory backbenchers and her confidence and supply partners the DUP with her commitment to sit down with Mr Corbyn.
She said last night she would ask the EU for a fresh Brexit deadline to 22 May when she attends an emergency European Council summit next week.