Theresa May has come under fire over Brexit during Prime Minster’s Questions today, as Jeremy Corbyn sought to capitalise on deep divisions among senior Tories over future customs arrangements.

The Labour leader drew laughs when he mocked Ms May’s call for “as little friction as possible”, adding: “Was she talking about EU trade or the next cabinet meeting?”

Mr Corbyn called on the prime minister to “step aside and let Labour” carry out the negotiations as he tore into her record on zero hours contracts and workers rights.

However the prime minister honed in on Labour’s own Brexit divisions, where members of the shadow cabinet have made contradictory statements in recent weeks.

Labour will use obscure parliamentary rules to try to force the government to publish cabinet papers on its different customs options on Wednesday.

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Live Updates

MPs have moved onto a debate on building regulations after Grenfell Tower.
Shadow housing secretary John Healey says “it is beyond me” why it has taken 11 months for the PM to announce the funding for tower blocks but he welcomed the announcement nonetheless.

Meanwhile, there was fresh confusion over Labour’s Brexit position after Jeremy Corbyn’s spokesman ruled out staying in the single market, just hours after two of his frontbenchers suggested the party may back it.

The spokesman reiterated Mr Corbyn’s concerns over keeping the UK within the European Economic Area after Brexit and said it would not deliver his priorities.
More here:

The government has been rebuked by opposition MPs and the Speaker for scheduling the East Coast mainline announcement on the same day as a debate on Grenfell Tower.
John Bercow was stern with Mr Grayling over the move, as it will take time away from the debate later today – as there is only limited parliamentary time.

Really helpful graphic from PA’s data journalist Ian Jones, who has set out a history of the East Coast rail franchise.

Labour’s Hilary Benn called on Mr Grayling to say he was re-nationalising the East Coast Main Line.

Mr Benn said: “This is third time that a private franchise on this line has failed.

“Now the Secretary of State just told the House that when it’s fully formed the new LNER operation will be a partnership between the public and private sectors.

“Can he clarify, until that time, is it in effect going to be a publicly run service and if that is the case then he could have made a considerably shorter statement if he’d just got up and said for the time being I am re-nationalising the East Coast Main Line.”

Mr Grayling replied: “Well it’ll be a publicly run service and we will be, over the next two to three years, developing the new model for the future which, as I say, will be a – the operator of last resort is a publicly run service, so yes it will be and we will be making the transitions to the new arrangements over that period.”

Labour Transport Committee chair, Lilian Greenwood, said: “The Secretary of State must take responsibility for this serious repeat failure.
“If Virgin-Stagecoach got their figures wrong then so did his department and he should apologise to passengers and taxpayers for that failure.”

Ms Greenwood also asked about the impact of the decision on other rail franchises, which were “struggling to meet their obligations”.

Chris Grayling insisted this railway had continued to deliver a higher level of contribution to the taxpayer than it did prior to 2014 and a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said Mr Grayling had “gifted” the operators a “£2bn bailout” after they failed on the main line, adding: “And he has the audacity to come to that despatch box and say it’s not reasonable to remove or place conditions on their passport. Absolutely ludicrous.”

The service’s most successful period had come under public ownership, Mr McDonald said, until it was “cynically reprivatised”.

He went on: “The Government’s incompetence has been disastrous for passengers and led to misery for millions.

“We’ve been here before, many, many times. Year after year, the Secretary of State and his predecessors have stood at the despatch box and told the House that privatisation is being reformed.

“We’ve had reform, reform and reform. We’ve had bailout after bailout. Rail companies win, passengers and taxpayers lose.

“There’s a definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same results. This is the situation we find ourselves in today.

“Franchising remains at the heart of the alleged partnership. No amount of tinkering can solve the failings of a broken privatised system, where the public takes the risk and the train companies take the profit, aided and abetted by the Transport Secretary.”

Speaking about the decision to renationalise Virgin Trains East Coast, the transport secretary Chris Grayling told the Commons: “I will terminate Virgin Trains East Coast’s contract on June 24 2018.

“I plan to use a period of Operator of Last Resort control to shape the new partnership.

“So on the same day we will start with the launch of a new long-term brand for the East Coast Main Line through the recreation of one of Britain’s iconic rail brands, the London and North Eastern Railway, the LNER.

“The team that’s been working for me since last autumn to form the Operator of Last Resort will take immediate control of passenger services.

“They will then begin the task of working with Network Rail to bring together the teams operating the track and trains on the LNER network.”

Theresa May announces £400m plan to strip Grenfell-style cladding from tower blocks

Theresa May has agreed to spend £400m to strip dangerous cladding similar to that found on Grenfell Tower from housing blocks, in an attempt to head of a parliamentary challenge from Labour.
In a major u-turn, the prime minister vowed to fund councils and housing associations to remove combustible cladding from tower blocks after months of rows between town halls and the government over who would pay for the work.

NEW: Theresa May has announced at PMQs the government will fully fund the replacement of cladding on high-rise buildings, a year on from Grenfell. It is thought to be around £400m. 
The London Evening Standard appears to have had a sneak peak at the announcement here

Theresa May pledges to foot £400million bill for stripping Grenfell-style danger cladding from tower blocks

Theresa May today announced that the Government will pay £400 million to cover the cost of removing dangerous cladding from 158 high-rise buildings. The cash will go to councils and housing associations facing big bills for making tower blocks safe after the Grenfell disaster. Mrs May said the fire, in which 71 died, was an “unimaginable tragedy and we cannot let it happen again”. Fire services have carried out inspections at 1,250 high-rise buildings.

Ms May also looked ahead to the royal wedding, telling MPs: “I’m sure the whole House will wish to join me in offering our best wishes to His Royal Highness Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on their wedding this Saturday and the very best for their future lives together.”
For Labour, Mr Corbyn said: “I join the Prime Minister in wishing Harry and Meghan all the best and thank Harry for the work he’s done in highlighting the need to challenge the stigma surrounding mental health, and the ability of all of us to talk about mental health to ensure people don’t suffer in silence on their own – particularly young people who are so often grievously affected by this.”

Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in Westminster, says the Scottish Parliament last night voted refused to consent to the Withdrawal Bill. He says the Conservative party are isolated and out of touch.
The PM says we have been working with the Scottish and Welsh government for a number of months on these issues. 
Blackford asks the PM to respect the vote that took place. 

Corbyn asks how many additional HMRC staff have been recruited to deal with Brexit – May refers to the money set aside by the Chancellor in recent months and sidesteps the question. 
She asks Corbyn to “welcome” the jobs created under this Government.
Corbyn says we’ve had 23 months since the referendum, and just 10 months left in the negotiations. The Government is so busy negotiating with itself it cannot negotiate with anyone else. 
He asks the PM to step aside and let Labour negotiate Brexit.

Corbyn says: “Can I congratulate the Prime Minister on record levels of zero hours contracts.” 

May says Corbyn wanted to trigger Article 50 the morning of the referendum, when it had become clear the UK had voted to leave the European Union. 
Corbyn says businesses are frustrated by the government’s stance. He says if the PM cannot convince her own Cabinet of her strategy what chance does she have of convincing the 27 other EU member states. 
May hits back saying we have record levels of unemployment under Labour. 


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