WATCH: Theresa May insists Chequers Brexit plan is not 'dead' ahead of Brussels summit

Posted On: 
17th October 2018

Theresa May has insisted that her Brexit plan is not "dead" as she prepared to head to Brussels amid deadlocked talks with the EU.

Prime Minister's Questions Mrs May faced a griling from Labour's Jeremy Corbyn - and her own allies.
Credit: 
PA

The Prime Minister had been hoping to put the finishing touches on a withdrawal agreement with the EU at a two-day summit that gets underway today.

But negotiations have stalled over plans to avoid a hard border in Northern Ireland.

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Seizing on the impasse at today's Prime Minister's Questions, Jeremy Corbyn accused Mrs May of "not once" mentioning her Chequers Brexit proposal - which has been roundly criticised by Eurosceptics and attacked by the EU - in recent statements.

The Labour leader asked: "Given the Prime Minister did not once mention Chequers - either in her conference speech or her statement to Parliament on Monday, does this mean the Chequers plan is now dead?"

Shooting back, Mrs May said: "He asked me if the Chequers plan was dead. The answer is no."

 

 

Mr Corbyn also pounced on reports that a string of senior Cabinet ministers met on Monday night to discuss concerns with Mrs May's Brexit strategy over pizza in the House of Commons.

Pointing out that two Cabinet ministers had refused to fully endorse Mrs May's Chequers plan in recent days, the Labour leader jibed: "Maybe she could share a pizza with them and then see if that can sort it out."

DUP PRESSURE

The Prime Minister meanwhile faced tough questions from her own backbenches, with leading Brexiteer and former minister Steve Baker urging her to make two "reasonable and practical" demands talks with the EU.

"First, the EU may not break apart the Union of the United Kingdom, and second that after we have left the European Union, the EU may not direct how we regulate our economy and govern ourselves," he said.

Mrs May said she had been "very clear" that her vision of Brexit meant "taking decisions here in the United Kingdom", as well as "taking controls of our laws", borders and money.

She also repeated her warning that the UK would "not accept any proposals which would effectively break up the United Kingdom", amid concerns about Brussels' proposed backstop to keep Northern Ireland in the EU's customs union after the rest of Britain leaves.

Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party has threatened to vote against this month's Budget and paralyse the government's domestic agenda unless Mrs May rules out such an arrangement.

In a reminder of the pressure Mrs May faces, DUP MP Nigel Dodds warned her that it would be "very, very difficult" for MPs to back a "legally binding" withdrawal agreement "without having pretty clear assurances and some precision about the details of the future trading relationship".

Mrs May vowed that MPs would be given "sufficient detail about the future relationship in all its aspects" when it comes to the crunch Commons vote on any deal she strikes with the EU.

She told Mr Dodds: "The trading relationship which he refers to is important to our future security relationship, both internal security and external security and other issues are also of importance. It is also important to me that there is a linkage in that future relationship and the withdrawal agreement."

The clash came after Ireland's foreign minister revealed that the EU would be willing to extend the UK's current Brexit transition period - due to run from March next year until the end of 2020 - in a bid to break the impasse over the Northern Ireland border and mitigate the need for the controversial backstop option to kick in.

Simon Coveney told the BBC: "The EU side is willing to allow more time in the transition period to agree an alternative solution to the backstop.

"What [EU chief negotiator] Michel Barnier is now suggesting is: let’s ensure the backstop is never likely to be used by creating the space and time for the UK and the EU to be able to negotiate UK-wide customs arrangements."