Brexit: Furious Tory MPs tell Theresa May her ‘desperate’ decision to seek talks with Corbyn will ‘damage the Conservatives’ for years

Prime minister warned that move will be ‘bad for Brexit, bad for the Tory party and potentially disastrous for the nation’

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Sunday 07 April 2019 09:17 BST
Jacob Rees-Mogg: 'This all rests with Theresa May and is upon her shoulders'

Leading Tory Eurosceptics have attacked Theresa May for her decision to seek Jeremy Corbyn’s help in delivering Brexit, warning that her approach will be “disastrous for the nation” and “threatens to damage the Conservatives for years”.

The prime minister reached out to the Labour leader last week after MPs rejected her proposed Brexit deal three times. Talks between the two main parties are continuing as they attempt to find a compromise solution to the deadlock gripping parliament.

But the decision to turn to Labour for help in getting a Brexit deal through parliament infuriated Conservative Eurosceptics who fear the outcome will be a much softer Brexit or a fresh referendum.

On Sunday, Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of anti-EU Tory MPs, said Ms May had made “active choices to stop us leaving” the EU.

He told Sky News’ Sophy 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 17.4 million 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.”

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

Mr Rees-Mogg said parliament had passed legislation to allow the UK to leave the EU on 29 March with or without a deal and accused Ms May of overriding this.

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 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.

“If the prime minister had done what she’d said in the first place and had stuck to the law as set out in two acts, we would have left the European Union by now.”

The Brexiteer leader also appeared to endorse Boris Johnson to be the Conservatives’ next leader, and said the former foreign secretary “has a great connection with voters” and “could unite the party and win an election”.

Dominic Raab, one of Mr Johnson’s likely rivals in the race to succeed Ms May, said the prime minister’s decision to hold talks with Mr Corbyn “threatens to damage the Conservatives for years”.

The former Brexit secretary said the “desperate” move was “potentially disastrous” for the country.

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.”

Keir Starmer says Brexit talks so far have been 'disappointing'

He added: “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.

“The government has spent years explaining why Mr Corbyn would sink our economy with his loony left ideas. Why rehabilitate him now? Why sub-contract the biggest decision we have faced in a generation to a man whose unsavoury friends and anti-western obsessions threaten national security?”

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