BJeremy Corbyn has written a bombshell letter to Theresa May offering a way to make Brexit happen. Here’s the letter in full, what’s changed – and why some MPs are angry
Jeremy Corbyn has dropped a political hand grenade into the Brexit debate that could change the course of history.
In a bombshell letter 50 days before Brexit, the Labour leader has shifted his red lines and offered Theresa May a clear way to leave the EU – if she backs a full ‘customs union’.
It means if she accepts his demands, Mrs May can get a House of Commons majority for Brexit.
But firstly, that’s a huge ‘if’ that could split the Tories.
Secondly, it throws a huge spanner in the works hours before the Prime Minister meets EU chiefs in Brussels today.
And thirdly, it’s enraged some Labour MPs who want Jeremy Corbyn to stop helping the government push through Brexit – and back a second EU referendum instead.
All that means it’s a long shot, and probably won’t happen. But it’s still an important intervention in Brexit.
What is Jeremy Corbyn’s offer?
Labour’s leader has written a letter to Theresa May, saying he will back her on a Brexit deal if it meets five demands:
A permanent, UK-wide customs union with the EU
Close alignment with the EU single market
Dynamic alignment on rights and protections, so UK standards keep pace with new ones in the EU
Clear commitments on participation in EU agencies
Unambiguous agreements on future security
Mr Corbyn has already held talks with the Prime Minister and more are expected to follow.
He promises to discuss his proposal with her in a “constructive” way to secure a “sensible agreement”.
He says “compromise” is now needed to please both the EU and the House of Commons, which voted down the 585-page Brexit deal by a record majority last month.
How has his position changed?
It means Labour is putting calls for a second EU referendum firmly on the back burner (Image: Jack Taylor)
Labour already backed a customs union. But this change in tactics is vital.
Firstly, the letter means Labour has officially ditched its six tests a Brexit deal would have to meet before being backed.
The tests were unveiled in March 2017. They were based partly on Tory promises about Brexit, but included ambitions that were obviously impossible – such as securing “the exact same benefits” the UK currently has.
They were derided as “bollocks” by Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner.
Today the very same Mr Gardiner told the BBC: “It’s not about tests now.
“What we are doing is saying we believe that these are the options that are available that would actually secure a majority in the House of Commons.”
Secondly, it means Labour is putting calls for a second EU referendum firmly on the back burner – despite huge pressure within the party.
Labour pledged to keep a second EU referendum as an “option on the table” thanks to a motion at the party conference last year.
Remainers say Labour should campaigning for that public vote NOW, having failed to force a general election. But Jeremy Corbyn is against it.
Thirdly, there is no mention in the letter of delaying Brexit. Labour has said extending the March 29 date may be inevitable. But this shows the party is still striving to help get a soft Brexit through as soon as it can.
Why are some Labour MPs furious?
Labour Remain-backers have voiced their fury at Jeremy Corbyn for – in their words – “enabling” Brexit.
They want him to back a second EU referendum instead.
And the words of Shadow Trade Secretary Barry Gardiner, who quoted Theresa May herself, won’t help.
He said: “Jeremy is trying to set out what we believe is needed to make a success of Brexit.”
Labour MP Chuka Umunna blasted: “This is not opposition, it is the facilitation of a deal which will make this country poorer.
Labour MP Owen Smith said: “Backing Brexit – even on these terms – would still shrink our economy, cost jobs and lost investment, indulge nativist nostalgia and isolationism.
Fellow Remainer MP Chris Leslie said: “Seriously? Offering to help Tory Govt enable Brexit?
“It’s not just Labour’s conference policy in the bin. When the jobs go & revenues for services dry up as a result, Labour’s leadership will have ZERO right to complain: they share responsibility.”
Labour MP Tonia Antoniazzi wrote sarcastically: “Nice to be briefed about this @UKLabour @WelshLabour.
“If at any point you would like to consult MPs and also take the Labour Party conference motion into consideration… Just let me know… Cheers…”