THE Conservatives and Labour are “half an inch apart” on Brexit, Rory Stewart, the International Development Secretary, has insisted just days after the cross-party talks seeking a compromise deal collapsed amid rancour and recrimination.

Appearing on BBC 1’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Stewart said: “We do in many ways agree; none of us wants to remain in the EU, none of us wants a no-deal Brexit, which means logically there has to be a deal.

“If there is to be a deal, the Labour and Conservative positions are about half an inch apart,” he declared.

In the wake of Theresa May announcing she is prepared to make a “new, bold offer” to MPs on Brexit when she brings forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill[WAB] in early June, Mr Stewart explained it would cover three elements: strengthening workers’ rights; environmental protection and trade with Europe. It is also expected to cover the use of technology to avoid the need for border controls between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.

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When it was pointed out that Jeremy Corbyn had said this was not enough, Mr Stewart said: “At no stage has Jeremy Corbyn…said there is anything else that he wants other than he sometimes suggests he wants a second referendum to be able to remain in the EU. That is going beyond.

“Within the terms of a Brexit deal, I don’t believe there is anything that Jeremy Corbyn or we want that is that far apart,” he insisted.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Mrs May said: "I still believe there is a majority in Parliament to be won for leaving with a deal.

"When the Withdrawal Agreement Bill comes before MPs, it will represent a new, bold offer to MPs across the House of Commons, with an improved package of measures that I believe can win new support.

"Whatever the outcome of any votes, I will not be simply asking MPs to think again. Instead I will ask them to look at a new and improved deal with fresh pairs of eyes - and to give it their support."

On Monday, ministers will begin discussions on a package of measures to be included in the WAB aimed at securing cross-party support.

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On Tuesday, the weekly meeting of the Cabinet will then consider plans for a series of so-called "definitive votes" in the Commons to establish which proposals could command a majority in the House. However, a senior Downing St source raised down these would even take place, stressing a decision on them had yet to be taken.

Mr Stewart, who has said he will be a candidate to succeed Mrs May when she is expected to stand down over summer irrespective of how the WAB vote goes, said that if he became Prime Minister, he would continue to press for a Brexit deal with the EU.

"If I were lucky enough to become Conservative leader, I would be pushing for a deal. That would be very close to what we are talking about at the moment.

"I would want to go to Parliament and say we are taking no-deal off the table and we are taking a second referendum and Remain off the table. I want those 650 MPs locked in a room talking about what practical Brexit deal they want."

Asked if he could happily remain in the party if it chose a leader who supported a no-deal Brexit, the Borders MP said: "No, I would find that very difficult."

The former Black Watch officer added: "If you go down the path of no-deal Brexit, you are going to lose four million Remain voters who voted for the Conservatives last time; so, you won't win an election. A no-deal Brexit is a vote for Jeremy Corbyn."