In Brief

Corbyn: Tories’ deregulation dream is blocking Brexit talks

Labour leader says he is putting the case for a custom union ‘very robustly’

Jeremy Corbyn says the Conservatives’ desire for post-withdrawal deregulation is obstructing his party’s Brexit talks with the government.

“The government doesn’t appear to be shifting the red lines because they’ve got a big pressure in the Tory party that actually wants to turn this country into a deregulated, low-tax society which will do a deal with Trump,” he said.

The Express says that May is “keen” to strike a deal with the US President to get access to the US market but that if the UK stayed in the EU’s customs union, such a deal “would be off the table”. The Huffington Post says these red lines leave the talks “teetering on the brink of collapse”.

Meanwhile, the Labour leader says his party has been putting its case for a customs union “very robustly” during the talks over the past week but “there is no agreement yet”. 

He added: “There has to be access to European markets and above all there has to be a dynamic relationship to protect the conditions and rights that we’ve got for environment and consumer workplace rights.”

He repeated his position that agreement could only be reached between the two parties if Theresa May accepts Labour’s central demand for a common external tariff policy with the EU.

A Labour spokesman told Reuters it was wrong for The Guardian to suggest talks had stalled, adding that further meetings were planned for this week and next.

This week's meetings between ministers and shadow ministers will focus on environmental protections, security and workers’ rights. Corbyn says he expects the talks to be “quite interesting, quite long technical discussions, particularly on environment regulations”.

However, he hinted that he believes the best way to break the deadlock would be binding indicative votes in the Commons adding that Britain has “lost a lot of time by the dithering of the government on bringing issues to parliament”.

The odds are stacked more in the Labour leader’s favour, as Theresa May is thought to be more anxious than Corbyn at the prospect of EU elections at the end of May, with the Tories expecting heavy losses in such a poll. 

Corbyn said Labour would “fight the elections as a party that is committed to that relationship with Europe, but above all it’s about uniting people. However they voted in 2016, they’re suffering from austerity”.

He dismissed the threat of Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, saying: “We have to have a relationship with Europe, in or out of the EU. We have a major trading partnership with Europe and all Farage is offering is some kind of never-never-land, saying we’ll walk away from everything.”

Corbyn said he was “very confident” that Labour would win support for its message that the UK needed a close economic relationship with the EU.

Elsewhere, European Council president Donald Tusk said the UK will take part in May's European elections and British MEPs could sit for “months or even longer”.

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