Donald Tusk has backed Jeremy Corbyn’s call for the UK to stay in the EU’s customs union as Theresa May suffered a disappointing day in Brussels.
In a letter to the PM, the Labour leader set out the terms on which he would support her on Brexit - including a permanent customs union with the EU.
He also called for single market alignment, shared rights and protections, and the continued use of the European arrest warrant.
None of Corbyn’s demands would require reopening the withdrawal agreement - something May is keen to do to get changes to the backstop proposal signed off by the EU in December.
In a meeting with the PM in Brussels, Tusk described Corbyn’s plan “as a promising way out” of the current deadlock as he once again ruled out a backstop renegotiation.
May is not budging in her opposition to Labour’s plan, as she sees having an independent trade policy as one of the key advantages of Brexit.
However, the refusal of Tusk or European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to consider reopening talks on the Irish backstop meant May left Brussels yesterday empty-handed, save for the commitment for more meetings before the end of the month.
A Downing Street official played down the notion Corbyn’s plan would unite a divided parliament, saying: “It’s evident throughout the course of the afternoon that the letter itself has started a fairly lively debate in Jeremy Corbyn’s party.”
Labour shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer insisted his party could still support another referendum on EU membership, while Streatham MP Chuka Umunna said Corbyn’s proposal boiled down to “Vote Labour, get a Tory Brexit”.
May will continue her bid at convincing the EU to reopen the withdrawal agreement during a dinner with Irish PM Leo Varadkar in Dublin on Friday evening.