- Jeremy Corbyn accuses Theresa May’s government of leading Britain down “the road to nowhere” in its Brexit plans.
- The Labour leader uses all five PMQs questions to question the prime minister’s handling of Brexit.
- May says her plans are clear: “A bespoke economic partnership.”
- Draft negotiating paper says the government wants a transition period that lasts longer than 20 months.
LONDON – Jeremy Corbyn accused the government of “waffle and empty rhetoric” on Wednesday as the Labour leader criticised Theresa May’s Brexit plans during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Corbyn devoted all five of his questions to Brexit and urged the prime minister to be clearer about what the government wants to achieve in negotiations with the European Union.
“All we’ve had so far from this government is waffle and empty rhetoric. This government isn’t on the road to Brexit – it’s on the road to nowhere,” Corbyn said.
The Labour leader quizzed May on the government’s desired Brexit end state after a week of keynote speeches from May, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Trade Secretary Liam Fox, and Brexit Secretary David Davis.
Referencing Davis’ claim that Brexit will not turn Britain into a “Mad Max dystopia,” Corbyn asked: “Does the prime minister feel he could set the bar just a little bit higher?”
He also pressed the prime minister to explain how a hard Irish border can be avoided if it government goes through with its plan to leave the customs union, and asked her to explain her desired Brexit endstate.
“The Government published papers last summer which showed how we can deliver exactly that,” May said.
She reiterated that Brexit will allow Britain to take back control of its money, borders and law, and said she wants to negotiate a “bespoke economic partnership” with the European Union.
The prime minister was met with laughs from Labour MPs as she then accused Labour of being divided over what it wants from Brexit.
“I have to say the only fiction around is the Labour party’s front bench who can’t even agree with themselves what their policy is,” she said.
Watch May and Corbyn clash over Brexit:
"All we've had is waffle and empty rhetoric… this government is on the road to nowhere" – Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn attacks Theresa May's handling of #Brexit https://t.co/RaX8buHKY2 pic.twitter.com/JGCETWljme
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) February 21, 2018
May also denied that the Cabinet plans to use Britain’s exit from the EU as an opportunity to scrap workplace and environmental regulations.
“I have been clear since I became PM that this is a government that will not only protect workers’ rights but enhance workers’ rights,” she said.
The latest clash between May and Corbyn came shortly after the Department for Exiting the European Union published draft negotiating guidelines on the proposed transition period.
The guidelines, which were leaked to Business Insider, say the UK government’s want a transition period to last as long as needed for Britain to implement systems and processes needed to cope with Brexit.
In a draft version of the text obtained by BI, the government states:
“The UK believes the [implementation] period’s duration should be determined simply by how long it will take to prepare and implement the new processes and systems that will underpin the partnership. The UK agrees this points to a period of around two years but wishes to discuss with the EU the assessment that supports its proposed end state.”
A Whitehall source insisted the government was not backing down on the free movement issue, however, telling Politico: “We are not conceding it – but we are also not putting a roadblock in the way at the outset.”
The government still expects the transition to last around 24 months. “They have talked about 21 months, we’re talking about 24 months,” May’s spokesperson said.
The EU has stated that a transition period cannot last longer than 20 months.
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