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THERESA MAY needs to listen to trade unions and businesses by formulating a back-up Brexit deal that will focus on jobs and industry, shadow chancellor John McDonnell said today.
His intervention followed a joint letter from the Trades Union Congress and the bosses’ Confederation of British Industry that called on the PM to change tack after MPs rejected her Withdrawal Agreement twice.
The letter was sent today while the PM and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were in Brussels for separate meetings with EU negotiators before the EU summit.
It says: “Together we represent millions of workers and tens of thousands of businesses. It is on their behalf that we are writing to you to ask you to change your Brexit approach.”
The letter slams a “national emergency” caused by Parliament’s Brexit deadlock and says it has increased the “risk” of a no-deal departure from the EU.
“The shock to our economy would be felt by generations to come,” it claims, though Guardian economics editor Larry Elliott has pointed out that even pessimistic predictions concerning Brexit’s economic impact would be considerably less severe than the bankers’ crash that hit Britain in 2007-8.
But Mr McDonnell said that the joint letter represented a “significant move” by the two main organisations that speak for workers and bosses.
He added: “The Prime Minister cannot ignore the clear advice and demands of these groups … she must move her red lines and act in the national interest in finding a compromise now. She cannot continue on this failed path.”
In Brussels Mr Corbyn met EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, secretary general of the European Commission Martin Selmayr and a number of prime ministers from member states.
Labour said Mr Corbyn would “express his confidence that an alternative to Theresa May’s botched deal can be agreed in Parliament.”
During the summit Ms May reiterated her request for the EU to give a three-month extension to Article 50 to push back the Brexit date from next Friday to June 30.
They have said that it could be possible on the condition that her deal is approved by the Commons, but countries including France, Spain and Belgium were said to be ready to veto the request.
French President Emmanuel Macron told reporters in Brussels that Britain would be heading for a no-deal Brexit if MPs reject Ms May’s deal again.
This comes after Ms May took to the Downing Street podium on Wednesday night to blame MPs for rejecting her deal in a bizarre speech in which she claimed she was on the “public’s side.”
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