Government divisions and “open warfare” are holding Britain back, Jeremy Corbyn warned as he taunted Theresa May over her forthcoming Cabinet “sleepover” at Chequers.
The Labour leader said it was not clear the Prime Minister can get a deal with her Cabinet, with “loud and competing” voices seeking to further themselves rather than the interests of the country.
Mr Corbyn also pushed Mrs May to publish details proving how the UK will benefit by not being part of a customs union with the EU.
The PM replied by accusing Labour of trying to “frustrate” Brexit, expressing her desire for Britain to have an independent trading policy and questioning why Mr Corbyn “can’t even agree with himself”.
The pair clashed following an update to the Commons on the June European Council.
Mr Corbyn raised questions over trade, the Irish border and immigration before asking: “Is the Prime Minister still confident she can get a deal?”
“At this stage it’s not clear that the Prime Minister can even get a deal with her own Cabinet, which is why after two years the white paper is still nowhere to be seen.”
“The divisions and open warfare at the highest levels of her Government are holding the country back.”
“Even her own Cabinet members are openly saying a deal can’t be done before the transition period and saying the transition period will have to be extended.”
He earlier accused the Government of having “mishandled” Brexit negotiations “every step of the way”, adding: “The division and infighting in the Cabinet is having a debilitating effect on this country and threatens jobs and communities in every part of the UK.”
“I don’t envy the Prime Minister as she prepares for her Chequers sleepover. She has many loud and competing voices in her Cabinet – not competing to do the best for this country but to do the best for themselves.”
“The Prime Minister’s primary duty is not to manage the latest division in her Cabinet, but to negotiate a deal that will safeguard jobs and living standards for decades to come.”
On trade, Mr Corbyn said major businesses and trade union have said it is “vital” for Britain to be in a customs union with the EU.
He added: “The Government’s published impact assessments show potential new trade deals come nowhere near replacing the advantages of being in a customs union, leaving every region and every nation worse off.”
“So what evidence does this Government have to suggest that rejecting any form of a customs union with our biggest trading partner is the best way of protecting jobs here in Britain?”
Mrs May, in her reply, said: “At virtually every stage the Labour Party has said that there was no progress on Brexit. At every stage we have delivered.”
She added: “Why does the Labour Party spend all it’s time trying to frustrate Brexit and stop the vote of the British people?”
Mrs May said the UK wants to continue to have a good trading relationship with the EU, adding: “We also want to ensure we have an independent trade policy and we can get good trade deals around the rest of the world as well.”
She also said Mr Corbyn had wanted to trigger Article 50 immediately after the EU referendum in 2016 and now is “refusing to rule out a second referendum”.
She said: “It’s not just a question of who in the Labour Party agrees with who else, (Mr Corbyn) can’t even agree with himself.” (PA)
Pic by John Stillwell/PA Wire