Jeremy Corbyn: Theresa May is 'clearly not listening' on Brexit

23 January 2019, 13:55 | Updated: 23 January 2019, 14:31

Jeremy Corbyn has said Theresa May is "clearly not listening" when it comes to Brexit, as the prime minister claimed the Labour leader "hasn't got a clue" as to how he would handle the UK's departure from the European Union.

Brexit once again dominated exchanges between the pair in the Commons, with Mr Corbyn renewing his calls for a "no-deal" divorce to be taken off the table.

A no-deal Brexit would see the UK leave the EU with no agreements in place for what the future relationship would look like.

Mrs May again attacked the Labour leader's refusal thus far to take up her offer of cross-party talks aimed at finding a Brexit breakthrough.

Mr Corbyn began by urging the PM to "listen to her own cabinet members and take 'no-deal' off the table".

Mrs May said the best way to avoid this was to agree a deal, asking the Labour leader why he had refused to meet her without preconditions.

The PM said: "He 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 is neither present nor involved."

Mr Corbyn then turned his focus to the prospect of Mrs May backing a form of customs union with the EU - which sees goods pass between states without checks or duties.

The arrangement is key pillar of Labour's Brexit blueprint, with supporters arguing it would ensure smooth trade between Britain and the EU and avoid the need for the Irish backstop, which is designed to avoid a "hard" border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Opponents say a customs union would hinder Britain's ability to strike tailored free trade deals with countries around the world, as there would be certain EU rules and regulations that would still need to be adhered to.

Mrs May responded by accusing Labour of having a muddled policy on the issue, saying: "The Labour Party used to refer to a comprehensive customs union, then it was a new customs union and now it's a permanent customs union.

"I'm happy to sit down and talk to him about what he means by that.

"Does he mean accepting the common external tariff? Does he mean accepting the common commercial policy?

"Does he mean accepting the union customs code? Does he mean accepting EU state aid rules?

"If he won't talk about it there's only one conclusion - he hasn't got a clue."

Mr Corbyn said the PM had failed to answer the question and added that Labour's customs union policy had the backing of unions, businesses and Conservative MPs.

He accused Mrs May of being ready to "sell people's jobs and living standards down the river" rather than "pivot" towards a customs union.

The PM defended her Brexit approach and said the Labour leader was "doing exactly what he always does - he just stands up, uses these phrases, and the honest answer is I don't think he knows what those phrases mean and what the implications of those phrases are".

Mr Corbyn finished his questioning of the PM by calling on her to change course and adopt positions that would attract the support of MPs.

"Across the country people are worried about public services, their living standards and rising levels of personal debt," he said.

"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.

"If the prime minister is serious about finding a solution, which of her red lines is she prepared to abandon?"

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?"