Jeremy Corbyn attacks Theresa May over ‘shambles’ of Cabinet split on EU customs deal

Posted On: 
9th May 2018

Jeremy Corbyn has branded Theresa May’s handling of Brexit talks a “shambles”, as he took aim at ministers' divisions over Britain's future customs relationship with the EU.

Jeremy Corbyn said the PM had had 23 months to reach a position on Britain's future customs relationship with the EU
Credit: 
PA Images

The Labour leader said the ongoing Cabinet war on whether to pursue Mrs May's preferred option of a customs partnership or opt for the so-called 'maximum facilitation' route was delaying parliament from debating key legislation.

Mr Corbyn said the Prime Minister had had 23 months since the Leave vote in order to “get ready for” MPs scrutinising the customs bill and trade bill, which reports suggest could be delayed until autumn.

Emily Thornberry sparks Labour Brexit confusion over customs union stance

Theresa May to Brexiteers: back me on compromise plan or risk full customs union

Theresa May dealt huge blow as Cabinet Brexiteers block her customs union plan

The Prime Minister repeatedly refused to be drawn on further details of the Government’s position, which is to rule out a customs union.

But she said discussions were ongoing on which path to take.

Mr Corbyn told MPs at Prime Minister's Questions: “Due to divisions in the Government, these negotiations are in a shambles, and this House is being denied the opportunity to debate crucial legislation affecting the future of our economy and communities all over Britain."

He said ministers were "more interested in putting their own futures first" and asked how they could strike "a good deal for Britain when they can't even agree among themselves".

The Prime Minister dodged the question on whether she agreed with Boris Johnson’s comments earlier this week that a customs partnership – where the UK would collect tariffs on behalf of Brussels – was “crazy”.

And when Greg Clark's suggestion that failing to striking that arrangement would cost jobs was put to her, she replied that the Business Secretary backed leaving the customs union.

Mr Corbyn added that Labour’s position of “a customs union” was clear, and called on Mrs May to stand up to the “wild right-wing people” within the Tory party.

He said: "The Government says it has two options, the Foreign Secretary says the first is 'crazy', Sir Ivan Rogers, our former EU ambassador said that the technological alternative is a fantasy island unicorn model.

"They have two options, neither of which are workable. The case for a new customs union with the EU is clear. To support jobs and living standards".

But the Prime Minister said the Labour leader had spent “an entire career opposing a customs union”.

She added: “Now when the British people want to come out, he wants to stay in. I know he is the leader of the opposition but that is going a bit far…"

"There are two options that were in my mansion house speech. Questions have been raised about both those options and further work continues.

"[Mr Corbyn] talks about the state of the negotiations. Before December he was saying the negotiations were not going to get anywhere.

"What did we get? A joint report agreed by the European Council. He said before March that we weren’t going to get what we wanted from negotiations.

"What did we get? An implementation and an agreement with the European Union Council.

"We are now in a negotiation for the best deal for the UK for when we leave the EU and we will get the best deal for the UK for when we leave the EU."