Jeremy Corbyn plan could end Brexit deadlock, Donald Tusk tells Theresa May
The Labour leader wrote to the Prime Minister on Wednesday night laying out the conditions under which his party could support a Brexit deal
Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May - Image credit: John Stillwell/PA Wire/PA Images
Donald Tusk told Theresa May that a fresh plan put forward by Jeremy Corbyn could break the Brexit impasse, it has emerged.
The Labour leader wrote to the Prime Minister on Wednesday night laying out the conditions under which his party could support a Brexit deal.
They included a permanent customs union with the EU as well as close ties with the single market.
According to reports, Brussels officials have said that Mr Tusk told Mrs May that Mr Corbyn's plan could be a way out of the current deadlock.
They also said that by contrast, the Prime Minister had not proposed any new ways of securing a deal that could win the support of the House of Commons.
Downing Street sources refused to deny that Mr Tusk had spoken approvingly of Mr Corbyn's proposals, saying only that it was "not something she proactively raised" with the EU boss.
A Number 10 spokesman stressed that the Prime Minister still remained focused on securing the changes to the Irish backstop needed to win round Tory rebels and the DUP.
He said: "It's welcome that the leader of the opposition is engaging in this and as the PM has said many times it's important that we continue to hold discussions to find a way forward to deliver Brexit.
"We're looking at those proposals with interest but there are obviously very considerable points of difference that exist between us. The PM continues to believe that an independent trade policy is one of the key advantages of Brexit, and her position on membership of the customs unions hasn't changed."
Despite the warm response it received in Brussels, Corbyn's letter sparked an angry backlash from some Labour MPs.
Owen Smith told PoliticsHome: "These demands are both weaker than the six tests we had previously used to measure the damage Brexit will do Britain, and also ignore the People’s Vote policy we agreed at conference.
"It’s also worrying that the letter implies we will accept Tory promises on a future customs union being written into the non-binding Political Declaration and on workers' rights being guaranteed in a Tory bill.
"The old Jeremy Corbyn would have told you those pledges won’t be worth the paper they’re written on. Brexit is a right-wing, ideological project and Labour should be opposing it."
Corbyn's office was also forced to send a message to Labour MPs via WhatsApp assuring them that his letter still left open the possibility of the party backing a second EU referendum.