Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May hold more talks as hopes rise over possible customs deal

Posted On: 
11th April 2019

Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May have held more talks as hopes were raised that they could do a deal over a customs union with the EU after Brexit.

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The pair met after Labour and Tory officials held several hours of negotiations over a possible compromise arrangement which could win the support of Parliament.

In a further sign of progress, frontbenchers from both parties will meet once again for talks on Friday as they try to find a way to break the impasse.

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Labour has called for a permanent customs union with the EU in the future, something the Prime Minister has repeatedly ruled out, claiming it would prevent the UK having an independent trade policy.

But speaking in the Commons, Mrs May said: "I think there is actually more agreement in relation to a customs union than is often given credit for when different language is used.

"We’ve been very clear that we want to obtain the benefits of a customs union - no tariffs, no rules of origin checks and no quotas - while being able to operate our own independent trade policy.

"The Labour Party has said they want a say in trade policy - the question is how we ensure we can provide for this country to be in charge of its trade policy in the future."

Mr Corbyn described the cross-party talks - which began last week - as "serious and detailed" and added: "If these talks are to be a success, the Government will have to compromise."

He also hit out at International Trade Secretary Liam Fox, who described a customs union as "the worst of both worlds" in a letter to Graham Brady, chairman of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee.

The Labour leader said that was "an attempt to scupper" the negotiations between his party and the Government.

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said the talks would only continue for as long as a deal was possible.

He said: "If we work at pace, the House of Commons can come together, we can agree a deal, ratify it and get out before having to do EU parliamentary elections. There is an opportunity here and we ought not to lose sight of that.

"We have already started the process with the leader of the opposition and it’s right we see that continue to what we hope will be a successful conclusion. We have stressed the urgency because there is an opportunity to avoid EU elections and to bring a resolution for greater certainty.

"Bluntly, we will not continue to talk for the sake of it. But we believe the discussion and dialogue we are having is valuable and we want to see that continue while we think we are making progress."

At an EU summit on Wednesday, Mrs May was granted a further extension to the Article 50 process running until 31 October.

However, she still hopes to ratify a Brexit deal by 22 May so that the UK does not need to take part in the European Parliament elections the following day.