Details of the plan, including blocking a second EU referendum, were contained in a leaked memo which was sent to Labour on Wednesday, a day after the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn met for private talks. It included giving MPs free votes in which they would rank in order of preference five different forms of customs arrangements with the EU. The aim was to force the Commons, which has rejected every option so far, to a decision.
A free vote on whether to make any deal subject to a second referendum appeared designed to block calls from 150 Labour MPs for a confirmatory ballot.
Labour’s MPs would have been expected to back keeping European workers’ rights and uphold EU environmental standards.
A Whitehall source said the document appeared to show areas where the two sides had reached agreement in the talks, which lasted for 42 days.
It listed agreement to leave with a deal rather than on no-deal terms, to leave on July 31, have as close as possible to frictionless trade, to end free movement and seek the fullest participation in EU bodies covering medicines and other critical areas.
However, a senior Labour source insisted the document was not approved by Mr Corbyn and no decision had been made by Labour on the form of votes to be staged.
“It is a Government document that has been put to us,” said the source.
The idea of preferential votes, with the least popular options being knocked out until a winning plan emerged, is controversial with Brexiteers as well as Remainers.
Mrs May herself is said to be wary in case it could lead to “everyone’s second choice” being adopted. The document says both sides would take stock after such votes, which would be non-binding, to decide if the outcome could be endorsed officially.
The plan will infuriate Labour’s second referendum backers as it reveals that a new EU vote was not included as a Brexit alternative and would be voted on separately.
Labour MP Alex Sobel called on Mr Corbyn to disown the plan and back a referendum immediately. Change UK leader Heidi Allen said: “Allowing this kind of cook up because neither our weak PM nor incompetent opposition leader dare consult with the British people over such a monumental change to their future is an affront to the office they hold. They must act in the national interest.”
Today Mr Corbyn will issue a rallying call to supporters in the Euro elections as he tries to play down claims from Labour MPs that the party has been trying to face both ways on Brexit, with a confused message over the circumstances in which it would back a second referendum. In a speech in Bootle, Merseyside, Mr Corbyn will say that years of neglect had “opened the door” to the far-Right in communities hit by cuts.
The PM’s spokesman said: “We don’t comment on leaks.”