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Theresa May, facing ridicule for avoiding a televised debate this week, sought on Thursday to regain the initiative in the campaign with an upbeat message about Britain’s future after Brexit. Speaking in Teeside, the prime minister urged voters to use next week’s election to affirm their faith in the decision to leave the European Union.
“If they do, I am confident that we can fulfil the promise of Brexit together and build a Britain that is stronger, fairer and even more prosperous than it is today. Because the promise of Brexit is great – the opportunities before us enormous,” she said.
Ms May was speaking in front of a new Conservative slogan – “Theresa May and the Conservatives: A Brexit deal for a bright future” – which has replaced branding that featured the prime minister’s name and the words “strong and stable leadership”.
With a YouGov poll on Thursday showing the Conservative lead over Labour narrowing to just three points, Ms May has returned to her core message for the final week of the campaign, framing the election as a choice between herself and Jeremy Corbyn to lead Britain through Brexit.
“What we know in this election is that the only other person that can be prime minister in seven days’ time is simply not up to the job. He doesn’t believe in Britain. He doesn’t have a plan. He doesn’t have what it takes,” she said.
“And after last night it’s clearer than ever that just 11 days after the election when the negotiations begin, Jeremy Corbyn’s focus wouldn’t be on trying to negotiate a deal for Britain in Europe, but on trying to stitch up a deal with Nicola Sturgeon and the rest.”
Mr Corbyn was also speaking about Brexit on Thursday, using a speech in Kent to contrast Labour’s approach to the negotiations with that of the Conservatives. Mr Corbyn said Labour would put Britain’s economic interests first in the negotiations and warned that leaving the EU without a deal would be a disaster.
“Theresa May says no deal is better than a bad deal. Let’s be clear: ‘No deal’ is in fact a bad deal. It is the worst of all deals, because it would leave us with World Trade Organisation tariffs and restrictions instead of the access to European markets we need, he said.
“In sector after sector, ‘no deal’ could prove to be an economic disaster. Theresa May’s approach risks a jobs meltdown across Britain.”
Labour supporters booed a journalist who asked if Mr Corbyn would invite Sinn Féin MPs to take their seats at Westminster to help prop up a minority Labour government. Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, who dismissed the question as “stupid”, said Labour was fighting to win a majority.
“If we end up in a position where we’re in a minority, we will go ahead and we will put forward a Queen’s speech and a budget and if people want to vote for it, then good, and if they don’t want to vote for it, they’re going to have to go back and speak to their constituents and explain to them why it is that we have a Tory government instead,” she said.