James Forsyth James Forsyth

Theresa May’s Brexit plan slowly trickles out

A pattern is emerging in the Government’s statements on Brexit to the House of Commons. The initial statement, today by Theresa May on the European Council, says little. But then, in answer to questions, some information slips out.

Today’s most interesting nugget was May’s response that staying in the customs union is not a yes or no question. This will add to the sense in Westminster that the Government is looking to stay in the customs union in certain sectors, for instance-car manufacturing, while leaving it in most areas. It is also worth noting when Gisela Stuart, the Labour co-chair of Vote Leave, asked about a 2020 deadline for being out of free movement and the like, the Prime Minister refused to endorse it. However, May’s one word assent to Edward Leigh’s suggestion that the UK should seek a free trade agreement with the EU, appears to have been more her not entirely concentrating on a rather verbose question than a statement of policy.

Jeremy Corbyn in his response to the Prime Minister was rather more fired up than usual. He accused her of presiding not over a ‘hard’ or ‘soft’ Brexit, but a chaotic one. He said that the Government needed a more ‘grown-up’ approach and boasted that he had been listened to more at the meeting of EU Socialist leaders than she had at the European Council. To which, May replied, that it must be nice for Corbyn to know that someone is listening to him. She then claimed that several EU leaders, including some Socialist ones, had complimented her on her Tory conference speech.

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