Theresa May has said Britain can “set an example to the world” in the Brexit negotiations, as she reiterated her call to “get on with” the talks.
Facing MPs in the Commons, the Prime Minister said that while there would be “ups and downs” on the horizon, her Government would pay no heed to the “counsels of despair that this simply cannot be done”.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said Mrs May’s keynote Brexit speech on Friday “barely papered over the cracks” within her party and accused the PM of presiding over “20 wasted months” since the June 2016 referendum.
He claimed bravado had given way to bickering, with the “arrogance” of some of her Cabinet ministers that sorting out Brexit would be the “easiest deal in history” being replaced by “debilitating infighting”.
Mrs May was addressing MPs for the first time since she hit back at the EU’s refusal to offer Britain a bespoke deal after it leaves the bloc.
She stood firm in calling for a different relationship than Canada, Norway and Turkey have with the EU, declaring: “If this is cherry-picking, then every trade agreement is cherry-picking.”
Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Mrs May said: “We cannot escape the complexity of the task ahead.
“We must build a new and lasting relationship while preparing for every scenario.
“But with pragmatism, calm and patient discussion, I am confident we can set an example to the world.
“Yes, there will be ups and downs over the months ahead, but we will not be buffeted by the demands to talk tough or threaten or walk out – and we will not give in to the counsels of despair that this simply cannot be done, for this is in both the UK’s and EU’s interests.”
She added: “My message to our friends in Europe is clear: you asked us to set out what we want in more detail, we have done that; we have shown we understand your principles; we have a shared interest in getting this right, so let’s get on with it.”
Responding, Mr Corbyn said his opposite number had still not got a grip on the Brexit negotiations.
“We’ve seen set-piece speech after set-piece speech and yet the Prime Minister still cannot bring clarity to these negotiations and still cannot bring certainty to British businesses or workers.
“The Prime Minister’s speech on Friday promised to unite the nation, but it barely papered over the cracks in her own party.”