The Prime Minister said she was “not clear” why the Labour leader was pushing for a continued customs union which would block Britain from striking its own trade deals. And she questioned whether Mr Corbyn’s call for “frictionless” trade would mean remaining in the single market and reneging on Labour’s commitment to end free movement. But Mrs May did say she was pleased to see Labour agreed the UK should leave the EU with a deal.
And she said cross-party talks to consider “alternative arrangements” to the controversial Irish border backstop should go ahead.
Her response comes after Mr Corbyn set out five elements which any Brexit deal must include if Labour is to support it.
They include a continued customs union with the EU, “close alignment” with the bloc’s single market and a commitment to mirror workers’ rights and environmental protections passed in Brussels.
But Mrs May ruled out some of Labour’s criteria in her response.
The Prime Minister said she was “not clear” about Mr Corbyn’s call for a customs union.
She said the existing Political Declaration – the non-binding part of the Brexit deal setting out the goals for the future UK-EU relationship – already provides many of the benefits of a customs union.
But she said the terms she had negotiated had the added benefit of allowing the UK to pursue an independent trade policy.
Mr Corbyn’s customs union demand includes a “UK say on future EU trade deals” – something Brussels appears unlikely to accept.
In her response, Mrs May said: “I am not clear why you believe it would be preferable to seek a say in future EU trade deals rather than the ability to strike our own deals?”
On Labour’s demand for “frictionless” trade with the EU through close alignment to the bloc’s single market, Mrs May warned truly frictionless trade could only be achieved by accepting freedom of movement.
She said: “The fundamental negotiating challenge here is the EU’s position that completely frictionless trade is only possible if the UK stays in the single market.
“This would mean accepting free movement, which Labour’s 2017 General Election manifesto made clear you do not support.”
Mrs May also rejected automatically following EU rules on workers’ rights and environmental protection.
But “in the interest of building support across the House”, she said the Government is prepared to commit to asking Parliament if it wishes to follow suit if Brussels’s standards change.
And she said cross-party support for security co-operation sends a “powerful signal” to Brussels.
Mrs May told Mr Corbyn she looked forward to their teams meeting “as soon as possible”.