Theresa May calls on Jeremy Corbyn to help deliver Brexit in push for 'national unity'

Posted On: 
2nd April 2019

Theresa May has called on Jeremy Corbyn to help her pass a Brexit deal as she called for "national unity to deliver the national interest".

Theresa May has called on Jeremy Corbyn to help her deliver Brexit.
PA Images

In a live television address following a seven-hour Cabinet meeting, the Prime Minister said it was time "to move on and bring our divided country back together" and that she needed the Labour leader's help to make it happen.

Mrs May said she wanted to hold urgent talks with Mr Corbyn to agree a soft Brexit deal which they can both present to the Commons in the hope of securing the backing of a majority of MPs.

READ IN FULL: Theresa May's Downing Street statement calling for 'national unity' on Brexit

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Risking a major split in her party, Mrs May said she was rejecting calls to go for a no-deal Brexit, instead arguing that "leaving with a deal is the best solution".

And in a move that will further infuriate her eurosceptic MPs, the Prime Minister admitted she will have to request another extension to the Article 50 process past the current cut-off date of 12 April at next week's emergency European Council summit.

However, the PM said she still hoped that the UK will finally be able to leave by 22 May, meaning voters will not have to take part in the European Parliament elections due later that week.

She said: "I know there are some who are fed up with delay and endless arguments that they would like to leave with no deal next week.

"I've always been clear we could make a success of no-deal in the long-term, but leaving with a deal is the best solution.

"So we will need a further extension of Article 50, one that is as short as possible and which ends when we pass a deal.

"And we need to be clear what such an extension is for - to ensure we leave in a timely and orderly way.

"This debate, this division, cannot drag on much longer.

"It is putting Members of Parliament and everyone else under immense pressure, and it is doing damage to our politics."

The PM added: "I'm offering to sit down with the leader of the opposition and try to agree a plan that we would both would stick to, to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal."

She said any deal would have to include the Withdrawal Agreement she negotiated with the EU and which has already been rejected three times by the Commons.

But Downing Street sources later admitted that all options for the UK's future relationship with Brussels - including a permanent customs union, a Norway-style relationship with the bloc or a second referendum - would be on the table in the talks with Mr Corbyn.

And if the pair cannot agree a way forward, the Government will allow the Commons to vote on a series of alternative Brexit plans - and agree to stand by whatever is agreed.

Mrs May said: "This is a difficult time for everyone. Passions are running high on all sides of the argument.

"But we can and must find the compromises that will deliver what the British people voted for.

"This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands and it requires national unity to deliver the national interest."