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May pushed to abandon Brexit red lines after lashing out at Corbyn

Prime Minister Theresa May gestures as she speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 23, 2019. See PA story POLITICS PMQs May. Photo credit should read: House of Commons/PA Wire

Theresa May claimed Jeremy Corbyn "hasn't got a clue" over Brexit as she was pushed to reveal which red lines she will abandon to secure a deal.

The Prime Minister made the jibe as she again urged Mr Corbyn to sit down with her in Downing Street to discuss what he wants from Brexit.

But Mr Corbyn warned: "The door of her office might be open but the minds are closed and the Prime Minister is clearly not listening."

Brexit dominated the leaders' exchanges at Prime Minister's Questions as the March 29 deadline for the UK's departure from the EU puts MPs under pressure to break the impasse.

Mr Corbyn began by demanding Mrs May take a no-deal Brexit off the table, telling the Commons: "After the overwhelming defeat of her deal, the Prime Minister says she wants solutions to the Brexit crisis that command sufficient support in the House.

"The Chancellor and Business Secretary agree, and I quote, there is a large majority opposed to no deal, so will the Prime Minister listen to her own Cabinet members and take no deal off the table?"

Mrs May said the way to avoid no-deal was to work with her to agree a deal and asked why Mr Corbyn refused to meet her without preconditions.

She said: "He has been willing to sit down with Hamas, Hezbollah and the IRA without preconditions, yet he won't meet me to talk about Brexit."

"In this case he is neither present nor involved."

Mr Corbyn then pressed Mrs May to reveal whether she ruled out a customs union with the EU.

Citing an Opposition amendment, Mrs May said: "The Labour Party used to refer to a comprehensive customs union, then it was a new customs union and now it's a permanent customs union."

"I'm happy to sit down and talk to him about what he means by that."

"Does he mean accepting the common external tariff? Does he mean accepting the common commercial policy? Does he mean accepting the union customs code? Does he mean accepting EU state aid rules?"

"If he won't talk about it there's only one conclusion - he hasn't got a clue."

Mr Corbyn noted the PM had not answered his customs union question, adding the proposal was a key part of Labour's offer and backed by organisations and Tory MPs.

He later accused Mrs May of being prepared to "sell people's jobs and living standards down the river" rather than negotiate a customs union.

Mrs May defended her approach to securing a Brexit deal before saying: "(Mr Corbyn) is doing exactly what he always does - he just stands up, uses these phrases, and the honest answer is I don't think he knows what those phrases mean and what the implications of those phrases are."

In his concluding remarks, Mr Corbyn also told the Commons: "Across the country people are worried about public services, their living standards and rising levels of personal debt."

"While a third of her Government are at the billionaires' jamboree in Davos, she says she's listening but rules out changes on the two issues where there might be a majority - against no-deal and for a customs union, part of Labour's sensible Brexit alternative."

"If the Prime Minister is serious about finding a solution, which of her red lines is she prepared to abandon?"

Mrs May fired back to Mr Corbyn: "He makes claims about minds being closed, he asks about red lines - why doesn't he just come and talk about it?"

A senior Labour spokesman later said that Mrs May's comments about Hamas and Hezbollah were "demeaning to the seriousness of the situation".

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