I don't trust Theresa May, says John McDonnell after media reports on Brexit talks

PUBLISHED: 12:56 05 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:59 05 May 2019

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he does not trust Theresa May. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said he does not trust Theresa May. Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images

2017 Getty Images

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said he no longer trusts Theresa May after media reports appeared of confidential cross-party Brexit talks.

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Speaking on BBC's Andrew Marr show, McDonnell accused the prime minister of jeopardising the talks for her own “personal protection”.

He accused May of acting in “bad faith” after the Sunday Times reported that the Prime Minister would give ground by putting forward plans for a comprehensive but temporary customs arrangement with the EU that would last until the next general election.

This, he said, breached the confidentiality of the talks.

Continuing to defend Labour's Brexit position, which prioritises securing a deal that is acceptable to the party, he also

said his party wanted to get a deal done “as soon as possible”.

However, he said the party needs guarantees that an agreement would not be “ripped up” by a future Conservative leader.

With a party leadership challenge possibly imminent, he was concerned that potential future leaders are “virtually threatening to tear up whatever deal that we do” while talks go on.

He made an analogy: “It's trying to enter into a contract with a company that's going into administration, and the people who are going to take over are not willing to fulfil that contract.

“We can't negotiate like that.”

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Faced with the choice of a Labour Brexit and a second referendum, McDonnell said: “I wanted our deal to go through parliament because at least that would protect us from what Theresa May is putting forward, which would damage my constituents and damage the economy.”

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He said, however, that Labour will go to a public vote to block a bad deal and a no-deal scenario.

It “may well” be the case that any deal would have to go back to the people, he said, adding: “I think the Conservatives have to recognise that if a deal is going to go through there might be a large number of MPs who will want a public vote.”

He also thinks it's likely that May will have to ask the EU to extend the Brexit time frame.

Earlier, shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth said it was “disappointing” that it appeared Tory ministers and spin doctors had been “briefing about what's happening” in the talks.

“We've entered these negotiations in good faith - they should be confidential at this stage because if you want to get an agreement you have to be able to respect the position of those sat around the table and we seem to be reading all kinds of things in the newspapers today,” he told Sky's Sophy Ridge on her politics show.

“I would say to those Tories negotiating this isn't really the best way to go about it to be frank.”

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