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Corbyn attacks May for 'demeaning' the UK

Press Association logoPress Association 18/01/2017

Jeremy Corbyn has accused Theresa May of "demeaning" her office and her country by threatening to make the UK an offshore tax haven if she cannot get the Brexit deal she wants from the EU.

The Prime Minister denied the Brexit plan she unveiled on Tuesday was based on threats, insisting she had set out a vision for "a stronger, fairer, more united, more outward-looking, prosperous, tolerant and independent, truly global Britain".

The exchange at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons came after Brexit Secretary David Davis said Britain may not have fully freed itself from European Union rules until 2021.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Mr Davis brushed aside suggestions that MPs might vote down a deal thrashed out over the next two years under Article 50 of the EU treaties, insisting: "I intend to make this a success."

The man who will lead the European Council when negotiations begin - Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat - warned that the negotiations would be "arduous" and that any deal offered to the UK must be "inferior" to the terms it could have as a member.

"We want a fair deal for the UK but that deal necessarily needs to be inferior to membership," Mr Muscat told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

"This should not come as a surprise to anyone. Indeed, thinking it can be otherwise would indicate a detachment from reality."

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned the remaining EU nations not to pursue a punitive approach to the Brexit negotiations, directing his response at French President Francois Hollande.

"If Monsieur Hollande wants to administer punishment beatings that anyone chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some World War Two movie, then I don't think that's the way forward," Johnson said.

"It's not in the interests of our friends or our partners."

Mrs May used a high-profile speech at Lancaster House in London on Tuesday to announce she will take Britain out of the European single market and may also quit the customs union, while seeking a free trade agreement with the EU to allow UK companies to continue doing business with its 27 remaining members.

She made clear that she was ready to walk away from a "punitive" deal, warning EU partners that Britain could use low corporate taxes to attract business and investment from around the world.

Speaking at PMQs in the Commons, Mr Corbyn called on the PM to "stop her threat of a bargain basement Britain, a low-pay tax haven on the shores of Europe".

"It wouldn't necessarily damage the EU, but it would certainly damage this country - businesses, jobs and public services," Corbyn added.

"She demeans herself and her office and our country's standing by making these kinds of threats."

He accused the PM of failing to guarantee the future of thousands of EU nationals working in UK public services or to explain whether she would be willing to pay for continued access to the single market.

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