Monday 14 October 2019

EU leaders tempted by Corbyn's Brexit plan as May talks to Varadkar

Leo Varadkar met with Theresa May. Photo: PA
Leo Varadkar met with Theresa May. Photo: PA
Jeremy Corbyn. Photo: Joe Giddens
Theresa May. Photo: Francois Lenoir

There is growing support at EU level for the vision of Brexit being presented by the UK's leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn.

Long derided as a Eurosceptic and unelectable by many European leaders, Mr Corbyn is now being looked to as the man who could crack the Brexit impasse.

His proposal includes keeping the UK in a customs unions with the EU, a move that would help ensure no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

However, Prime Minister Theresa May, who was in Dublin for dinner with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar last night, has made leaving the customs union a red-line issue.

The one-on-one came at the request of the British government at the end of a week where Mrs May has travelled to both Belfast and Brussels.

Her team were warned in advance by Irish officials that while they were happy to host her, any Brexit discussions could only interpreted as 'talk' - because Ireland negotiates its position through the EU taskforce led by Michel Barnier.

Mr Varadkar said the meeting was an opportunity "to share our perspectives and for us to listen to each other".

"There is much more that unites us than divides us and time is running short," he said.

Mrs May has still to outline exactly what 'alternative arrangements' she wants to the backstop that she already agreed with the EU.

The prime minister is believed to have used last night's meeting to explain her desire for legally binding changes to the Brexit deal. This has been repeatedly ruled out in recent days by Mr Varadkar and a series of key EU leaders.

Mrs May argues that without some tangible changes she will not be able to get a deal through the House of Commons.

After a gruelling week of rejections, her position is now being further undermined by EU diplomats privately discussing the virtues of proposals tabled by her rival Jeremy Corbyn.


The Labour leader has written to the prime minister with five demands that he believes would help get a majority of MPs behind a deal.

Sources believe that if any deal is to get through the UK parliament it will require need cross-party support.

Meanwhile, former UKIP leader and Brexit campaigner Nigel Farage has announced he will stand as a candidate for a new "Brexit Party" to contest European Parliament elections if Britain has not left the EU.

"The party was founded with my support and with the intention of fighting the European elections on May 23 if Brexit has not been delivered," he said.