A Cabinet minister has insisted there is “no chance” of Theresa May accepting Labour’s vision for leaving the EU, despite speculation she could soften her stance on customs union membership.
As the Prime Minister prepares to update MPs on the latest developments in the Brexit negotiations on Tuesday afternoon – a day earlier than expected – Andrea Leadsom dismissed the prospect of Mrs May adopting Jeremy Corbyn’s “world view”.
In an exclusive interview with the Press Association, the Commons Leader insisted she would stay in the Cabinet to help Mrs May deliver Brexit and denied that the PM was softening her stance over a customs union in a letter to Mr Corbyn.
Mrs May’s reply sparked concern among Conservative Brexiteers that the Prime Minister could concede too much ground to Labour in an attempt to win cross-party backing for a deal with Brussels.
Mrs Leadsom said: “I think she’s making quite clear that what Corbyn is demanding is actually not as good as what the Prime Minister’s deal is offering.
“So he wants a customs union and he is unclear as to whether that means he also wants an independent trade policy.
“He’s unclear as to whether he also wants to stop free movement, and of course the EU’s view would be, ‘well, if you’re in the customs union then you have free movement and you abide by the common external tariff’.
“I think there’s no doubt that what the Prime Minister is offering is better than what Corbyn is demanding, which simply begs the question, if they like it, why don’t they vote for it?”
Mrs Leadsom said there was “no chance” Mrs May would adopt Mr Corbyn’s “view of the world”, adding: “The Prime Minister has been absolutely clear we’re leaving the EU, we’re leaving the customs union, we’re leaving the single market.
“We’re taking back control, we won’t be paying money over, free movement will end, and we will have our own independent free trade policy, so I definitely don’t see the Prime Minister agreeing to Corbyn’s world view.”
The Brexiteer frontbencher refused to say what the cut-off date would be for the necessary legislation to get through the Commons to allow the UK to leave the EU as planned on March 29.
She said it was possible to pass bills “quite quickly” with “goodwill” from the Commons and Lords, but added: “It’s just not possible to say how quickly it could be done, but obviously it depends on the way in which there is adequate debate on the meaningful vote and that’s what the Prime Minister is determined to do.
“(It) is to make sure that parliamentarians have had ample opportunity to look at the deal she’s putting forward before it comes to that meaningful vote.”
Downing Street said Mrs May will make a Commons statement on the latest developments in the Brexit negotiations on Tuesday afternoon to give MPs more time to “digest the content” ahead of a series of expected Commons votes on Thursday.
Elsewhere Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay was said to have held “constructive” talks on Monday night with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels.
The pair agreed to further meetings in the coming days, while their teams will continue to work to find a way forward.
On Tuesday, Mr Barclay and Mrs May’s de facto deputy David Lidington will meet MEPs in Strasbourg, while Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will meet his French counterpart in Paris.