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UK Politics: PM rejects Corbyn trade plans but highlights 'common ground' between parties

Jeremy Corbyn
Corbyn plans will not get the PM's approval

Plans for Brexit put forward by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn have been rejected by the PM. The Tradefair team brings you the latest from UK politics...

"The prime minister remains very clear that she thinks that a very major economy like the United Kingdom needs to have the freedom to be able to make its own trade deals, so she's disagreeing with Jeremy Corbyn's suggestion that we enter a permanent customs union."

- prisons minister Rory Stewart

Prime minister Theresa May has rejected the proposals of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for the permanent continuation of a customs union with the European Union (EU), which he set out in a letter last week.

In a letter to the PM that revealed the conditions on which the Labour Party would support plans for Brexit, Mr Corbyn stated "flexibility and compromise" are now needed to secure an orderly Brexit.

Still no Brexit resolution in sight

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Sunday (February 10), prisons minister Rory Stewart stated there has been significant consideration of Mr Corbyn's proposed plans in Downing Street during recent days. However, in several key areas, the prime minister is not in agreement with the opposition leader.

Mr Stewart commented: "The prime minister remains very clear that she thinks that a very major economy like the United Kingdom needs to have the freedom to be able to make its own trade deals, so she's disagreeing with Jeremy Corbyn's suggestion that we enter a permanent customs union."

He added that there is no "shifting of red lines" on this issue. Indeed, this is an important clarification, as to enter into any permanent customs union with the EU would be viewed as a 'soft Brexit' in many quarters.

Narrowing of the political divide

That said, while there was incompatibility on this issue, Mr Stewart did go on to state that in many other areas, the Conservative and Labour parties do have very similar positions.

"What she is saying is that we have a lot of common ground, a lot more common ground perhaps than people have acknowledged, on things like environmental protections, workers' rights, making sure that we get investment into areas of the country which haven't done as well out of the last few years as other parts of the country," the minister acknowledged.

As a result, the prospect of Labour voting to support any future Brexit plan may have increased in light of these latest statements. However, only time will tell if a set of proposals to meet the satisfaction of a majority of MPs in parliament can be delivered in time.

Brexit puts the brakes on growth

The impact of Brexit is being widely felt across the UK economy at present, with the potential disruption it will cause meaning UK figures for GDP do not make for positive reading right now.

Announced this morning, the UK's economic performance in Q4 last year was shown to have "softened" in comparison to previous forecasts. Indeed, the economy grew by around 0.2 to 0.3 per cent in the latest full quarter - less than half of the predicted figure.

With the UK's official EU departure date now less than seven weeks away and little progress to be seen on a Brexit agreement, the coming months will be crucial in defining economic growth this year, but as yet, there is little to drive optimism of a lasting upturn.

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