Theresa May accuses Jeremy Corbyn of being ‘more willing’ to talk to Hamas than discuss Brexit with her
Theresa May has accused Jeremy Corbyn of being more “willing to sit down with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA” than to hold talks with her on Brexit.
In a heated round of Prime Minister’s Questions, Mrs May said the Labour leader had been ready to engage with the militant groups “without preconditions” - but had so far refused to take part in talks on a way forward after the Commons resoundingly rejected her Brexit deal.
A spokesman for Mr Corbyn later said the Prime Minister's comments were "demeaning".
But Mr Corbyn blasted the Prime Minister, accusing her of having a “completely closed” mind and refusing to alter any of her Brexit red lines in order to get backing from MPs.
Taking aim at the Labour leader, Mrs May said the “whole government” was pushing for a deal with the EU.
She said: “What I have been wanting to do - and have been doing with members across this House - is sit down and talk about how we can secure support in this House for a deal.
“The Right Honourable Gentleman has been willing to sit down with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA, without preconditions. Yet he won’t meet me to talk about Brexit. In this case, he’s neither present nor involved.”
The Labour leader has previously come under fire for referring to representatives of militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends” during a 2009 parliamentary meeting. He has since said he regrets using the term.
Meawhile the Labour leader’s long-standing support for Irish republicanism also came under close scrutiny during the 2017 election campaign, with the Tories challenging Mr Corbyn’s office to condemn violence carried out by the IRA during the Troubles.
Asked to respond to Mrs May's remarks, a spokesman for Mr Corbyn said: "It's demeaning to the seriousness of the situation. Of course we believe in dialogue in conflict. This situation is an entirely different one."
CORBYN: MAY 'NOT LISTENING'
Hitting back at the Prime Minister, Mr Corbyn urged her to “take no-deal off the table” - Labour’s key precondition for talks - and said Mrs May had shown “no flexibility whatsoever” in considering a permanent customs union to break the Parliamentary deadlock.
"The door of her office might be open, but the minds are closed and the Prime Minister is clearly not listening," Mr Corbyn said.
“Across the country, people are worried about public services, their living standards, and rising levels of personal debt.
“While a third of her government are at the billionaires’ jamboree in Davos, she says she’s listening but rules out changes on the two issues where there might be a majority: against no-deal and for a customs union, part of Labour’s sensible Brexit alternative.”
Mrs May shot back: “He makes claims about minds being closed. He asks about red lines. Why doesn’t he just come and talk about it?”
A group of Labour MPs this week defied Mr Corbyn's call for them to shun talks on Brexit ministers until Mrs May rules out leaving the EU without a deal, the current default position on March 29 if no deal can be agreed by the House of Commons.
Pro-EU MPs Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger and Gavin Shuker on Monday met Mrs May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, and her chief of staff, Gavin Barwell.