Theresa May hits back at Jeremy Corbyn over Single Market: I’ve got a plan, he does not have a clue

British PM Theresa May

Theresa May has accused Jeremy Corbyn of “not having a clue” over Brexit as she faced pressure to reveal if Britain will pay for single market access.

The British Prime Minister refused to be drawn on whether payments would be required after the UK withdraws from the bloc despite Labour leader Mr Corbyn repeatedly raising the issue.

Mrs May was forced to defend her 12-point Brexit plan as the pair clashed at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Mr Corbyn criticised Mrs May for delivering her key Brexit speech away from the Commons, telling MPs: “Restoring parliamentary democracy while sidelining Parliament?

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn

“It’s not so much the Iron Lady as the Irony Lady.”

He urged Mrs May to “stop her threat of a bargain basement Brexit, a low-paid tax haven on the shores of Europe”.

Mr Corbyn said: “It won’t necessarily damage the EU but it would certainly damage this country.”

He claimed Mrs May “demeans herself and her office and our country’s standing” by making these “threats”.
The PM replied: “What I set out yesterday was a plan for a global Britain bringing prosperity to this country and jobs to people and spreading economic growth across this country.”

Mrs May said people had learnt more about Mr Corbyn’s thinking: “What he said was the following: ‘She has said leave the single market, then at the same time says she wants to have access to the single market. I’m not quite sure how that’s going to go down in Europe. I think we have to have a deal that ensures we have access to the market’.

“I’ve got a plan, he does not have a clue.”

Mr Corbyn later sought to press Mrs May over the potential cost of accessing the European single market post-Brexit.

He said: “The Prime Minister said something about frictionless access to the single market and a bespoke customs union deal.

“Could the Prime Minister give us a little bit of certainty and clarity about this. Has she ruled out paying any kind of access fee to achieve access to what she describes as a frictionless market?”
Mrs May replied: “Access to the single market is exactly what I was talking about yesterday in my speech.

“One of the key principles, key objectives, is that we negotiate a free trade agreement with the European Union that gives us the widest possible access for trading with and operating within the European Union.

“He talks about frictionless access – this was actually a separate point, which is about frictionless borders in relation to the customs issue.”

Mrs May said this is important for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, reiterating the desire to ensure the “best possible arrangement that does not lead to a borders of the past for Northern Ireland”.

Mr Corbyn, highlighting the unanswered question, noted: “The question was would we have to pay for access to the market or not?

“The Prime Minister has not given an answer on that.”

Mrs May repeated her desire for Britain to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU which offers the “best possible access” for both UK and European businesses.

She also told Mr Corbyn: “It’s about sitting down and negotiating the best possible deal for the United Kingdom.”

The Labour leader pressed again on the issue, telling Mrs May: “The question was how much we’re going to have to pay to have access to the market – still no answer.”

The Prime Minister also defended British Parliament’s role in scrutinising the Brexit plan, under pressure from Tory Europhile Ken Clarke.

Mrs May told MPs: “Yesterday the Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union came and, I think, spent two hours answering questions from Members in this House.

“There is a further debate, a general debate, on exiting the European Union matters taking place today.
“There have been a number of these debates already, looking at the issues that are part of the objectives that we have set.

“We will have to consider the result of the decision of the Supreme Court, which may, if it goes against the Government, require legislation to be brought before this House.

“There will be an opportunity in the Great Repeal Bill to look at a number of issues around exiting the EU.
“But as to voting on the actual deal that we have, we can’t vote on that until we know what the deal is.
“That’s why I said yesterday Parliament will have a vote, when we know what that deal is.”

The British Government has resisted calls to put its Brexit strategy into a White Paper, a stance that Mrs May also took in the Commons.

In her speech on Tuesday Mrs May did confirm that Parliament would get to vote on the final EU withdrawal deal.

Former chancellor Mr Clarke had asked Mrs May: “The Prime Minister did yesterday confirm her commitment to parliamentary democracy, therefore I assume accepts the longstanding convention that the executive, the Government, is continuously accountable to this House for the policies that it is pursuing.

“Could she therefore clarify whether or not she intends to make any further statements of policy intentions to this House, and whether she anticipates this House having an opportunity to vote its approval for those policies earlier than two years away, when the whole negotiation has been completed?”

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