Brexit: Theresa May issues video to voters insisting political parties must work together to solve crisis

Prime minister admits compromise on both sides needed in move likely to fuel speculation she could agree to customs union with EU

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Sunday 07 April 2019 17:05
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Theresa May has made a fresh bid to break the Brexit deadlock by speaking directly to voters to stress the need for political parties to work together.

In a video message released on social media, the prime minister said compromise on both sides was needed to find a cross-party solution to the crisis.

The admission is likely to fuel speculation that the government could be prepared to agree to Labour’s demands for a customs union with the EU.

Talks between the government and Labour are expected to continue this week before Ms May travels to Brussels on Wednesday to seek a further delay to Brexit.

The prime minister insisted cross-party talks were the only way to deliver Brexit after MPs voted down her withdrawal agreement three times and also passed legislation to block a no-deal Brexit.

The unusual decision to release a video aimed directly at voters will be seen as a bid to relaunch the stalled talks with Labour while also paving the way for her to blame Jeremy Corbyn and his team if negotiations collapse.

In the clip, which appeared to have been filmed at her Chequers country retreat, Ms May said: “People didn’t vote on party lines when it came to the Brexit referendum, and I think that members of the public want to see their politicians work together more often.

“There are lots of things on which I disagree with the Labour Party on policy issues. But on Brexit I think there are some things we agree on: ending free movement, ensuring we leave with a good deal, protecting jobs, protecting security.

“And so we’re talking. Can we find a way through this that ensures that we can get a good deal and a deal agreed through Parliament? It’ll mean compromise on both sides, but I believe that delivering Brexit is the most important thing for us.

“People voted to leave the EU – we have a duty as a parliament to deliver that.”

The prime minister faced an angry backlash from senior Conservative MPs on Sunday over her decision to engage in talks with Labour.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the chairman of the European Research Group (ERG) of anti-EU Tory MPs, said Ms May had made active choices to stop the UK leaving the EU.

He told Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday: “I think having Jeremy Corbyn as part of the Brexit process is a mistake – that he is not sympathetic to the government, obviously, and is a Remainer.

“So what you’ve got is two Remainers trying to work out how we should leave, ignoring the 17.4m people who voted to Leave and ignoring the fact that parliament has legislated not just once but twice for us to leave with or without a deal.”

The Brexiteer leader said Ms May had failed to deliver on the promises she made in the Conservative manifesto and previous speeches on Brexit. “The reason she’s in difficulty is her own creation – it’s not forced upon her,” he said.

“The prime minister could have taken us out on 29 March. It was the prime minister who asked for an extension, it was the prime minister who changed the date by prerogative power from the 29 March to 12 April. This all rests with her and upon her shoulders.

“She has made active choices to stop us leaving and she deserves to be held to account for that because people ought to know the truth of the position rather than [her] trying to blame everybody else – blaming recalcitrant MPs and other Conservatives.”

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Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, also criticised the prime minister, saying her desperate move threatened to damage the Conservatives for years.

Writing in the Mail on Sunday, he said: “This is a major mistake – bad for Brexit, bad for the Tory party and potentially disastrous for the nation. Mrs May must change course, and quickly. Mr Corbyn, remember, has no serious interest in securing an effective Brexit.

“If the PM bends to Mr Corbyn’s whims now, we can kiss goodbye to the opportunities Brexit offers us. Indeed, there would be no way of taking back control of our laws from Brussels and Strasbourg. We would be stuck with the freedom of movement of people, with no control of our borders. And we would give up the right to strike global free-trade deals with fast-growing and emerging economies, which would help create more jobs here as well as cutting the cost of living.

“It is no surprise Mrs May’s overtures have gone down badly with Conservatives. Our supporters are frustrated or simply giving up, with many threatening to take their vote elsewhere, to Ukip or even Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. Indeed, her approach threatens to damage the Conservatives for years. But just as serious is the danger from Mr Corbyn and the hard left Labour rabble he wants to put into power.”

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