Jeremy Corbyn holds talks with Tory backbenchers in bid to strike soft Brexit deal

Posted On: 
7th March 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has held talks with Conservative backbenchers as Labour continues to push for a softer form of Brexit that can win a Commons majority.

The Labour leader held talks with Tory ex-ministers Nick Boles and Sir Oliver Letwin.
Credit: 
PA

In a move which risks angering pro-EU MPs in his own party who want him to fight harder for a second EU referendum, the Labour leader said he was now more "certain than ever" that MPs could get behind "a decent Brexit deal".

Mr Corbyn held talks with a cross-party group made up of Conservative former ministers Nick Boles and Oliver Letwin as well as Labour MPs Lucy Powell and Stephen Kinnock.

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The group is pushing a plan dubbed 'Common Market 2.0', which would seek a Norway-style relationship with the EU after Britain leaves the bloc.

It would see Britain joining the European Economic Area and the European Free Trade Association, a much closer relationship with the EU than currently proposed in Theresa May's Brexit deal.

Writing in the Mirror, Mr Corbyn - who also discussed Brexit with business chiefs this week - said: "I left both meetings more certain than ever that we can find a way to work across parliament to force the government to back a sensible Brexit plan that protects jobs and more determined to achieve it."

He added: "I will continue to reach out to get a decent Brexit deal so our country can spend more time talking about our children’s future than a customs union."

Mr Boles, the Conservative former skills minister, meanwhile said: "If the PM’s deal is defeated next week Parliament will need to find a cross-party compromise.

"It is very welcome that the Leader of the Opposition is engaging so seriously with the Common Market 2.0 plan."

'SENSIBLE BREXIT'

But the latest push for a Brexit compromise from the Labour leader could stoke anger on his own backbenches, where some MPs have been urging Mr Corbyn to do more to push for a second Brexit referendum.

Mr Corbyn told MPs last month that Labour would support efforts to trigger a new public vote to  prevent a "damaging Tory Brexit".

In his new column for the Mirror, the Labour leader said the party was still planning to get behind a second referendum if MPs could not agree on a "sensible Brexit".

He said: "Labour respects the result of the referendum and a close economic relationship is the best Brexit compromise for both 17 million leave voters and 16 million remain voters.

"But we can’t accept a damaging Tory Brexit or a no deal outcome, so we also support preparing for a public vote in case parliament is not able to achieve a sensible Brexit."

In a fresh sign of the balancing act the Labour leader faces on a second referendum, The Sun reports that Labour chairman Ian Lavery - a key ally of the leadership - warned Mr Corbyn this week that he would never make it to 10 Downing Street if he backed a so-called 'People's Vote'.

Mr Lavery is said to have told the latest Shadow Cabinet meeting: "If we back a 2nd referendum you will never be Prime Minister."