Politics update: EU rejects renegotiations on Brexit backstop, May tries to woo rebel Labour MPs

Politics update 31.01.2019 EU Withdrawal Agreement

Good morning. Here’s your daily Politics Update:

Labour says Corbyn and May did discuss customs union, No 10 disagrees

Corbyn meets May Brexit

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and the party’s chief whip Nick Brown on their way to Theresa May’s office for talks on Brexit. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Representatives from Downing Street and the Labour Party are at odds over whether or not Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May discussed adjusting her position on a customs union.

The Labour leader met with the prime minister on Wednesday afternoon to discuss Brexit, after the two agreed to meet in the wake of yesterday’s Commons votes, which saw one amendment passed to send May back to Brussels to renegotiate the backstop, and one to (non-bindingly) reject a no-deal Brexit.

After the 45 minute meeting, a spokesman for Labour said that the two had a discussion in which the PM showed a “serious engagement in the detail” with regards to Corbyn’s proposal for a customs union with the EU post-Brexit.

However, moments later Downing Street responded by saying that despite having discussions with Corby, she had not changed her position on a customs union. The Guardian newspaper reported sources saying that May told Corbyn the UK must be free to sign its own trade deals.

May seeks to woo rebel Labour MPs to support deal

Theresa May

Theresa May is putting together a series of proposals to attempt to win the backing of rebel Labour MPs who could be swayed to support her Brexit deal.

The prime minister will approach rebel MPs with a package of measures including protection workers’ rights after Brexit, and cash for former coalfield communities.

May has already reportedly asked to members of her cabinet to approach opposition backbenchers who represent leave-voting constituencies, to consult them on legislation to protect workers rights.

In a comment aimed at wooing Labour MPs, the prime minister said in the Commons earlier this week that she would “consider any measure approved by EU institutions that strengthens any of those protections”.

Theresa May: Amendment will not remove threat of no-deal

Theresa May has effectively dismissed the amendment passed in the Commons on Tuesday rejecting a no-deal Brexit, telling MPs it would not stop the UK crashing out without a deal.

May told the house that it was clear MPs wanted to leave the EU with a deal, but turned fire on Jeremy Corbyn for supporting amendments against the government and opposing her Brexit plans, saying the Labour leader would “reject any deal the government puts on the table.”

Speaking on Wednesday, May said: “Last night, the house did vote to reject no deal. But that cannot be the end of the story. You can’t just vote to reject no deal. You have to vote for a deal. Otherwise you leave with no deal.”

She continued: “So far, he has opposed everything this government has put forward in relation to a deal. He said previously he would reject any deal the government puts on the table.”

Corbyn responded by saying: “We are the House of Commons, we represent the entire country, and the point I’m making is we should bring people together whether they voted leave or remain.”

EU leaders reaffirm withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation

Politics update 31.01.2019 EU Withdrawal Agreement

Top EU leaders have reaffirmed their position future Brexit negotiations, saying the withdrawal agreement will no be reopened, despite Theresa May returning to Brussels to attempt to make changes to the Irish border backstop.

European commission president Jean Claude Juncker said on Wednesday that the withdrawal agreement was still the “best and only deal possible”, adding that the amendments passed in the Commons on Tuesday evening “do not change that.”

Shortly after Juncker’s statement, European council president Donald Tusk echoed his colleagues words, tweeting: “My message to PM @theresa_may: The EU position is clear and consistent. The Withdrawal Agreement is not open for renegotiation. Yesterday, we found out what the UK doesn’t want. But we still don’t know what the UK does want. #brexit”

Speaking on Wednesday, Juncker said: “The withdrawal agreement remains the best and only deal possible. The European Union said so in November, we said so in December, we said so after the first meaningful vote in the Commons in January. The debate and votes in the House of Commons yesterday do not change that. The withdrawal agreement will not be renegotiated.”

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