Cross-party talks between Labour and the Government resumed on Monday night after days of little to no progress on Brexit.
Jeremy Corbyn blamed Theresa May for the two sides failing to come up with a new Brexit deal yet because she won’t give up her ‘red lines’. Meanwhile Tories have confirmed they are already preparing for European Parliament elections at the end of May – admitting Brexit is likely to be delayed until after then.
Just yesterday the Prime Minister released a video warning Brexit won’t happen at all without compromise on both sides. The Labour leader fumed: ‘Today I held a meeting of our shadow cabinet to discuss the Brexit talks with the Government. ‘The exchanges with the Government have been serious, but our shadow cabinet expressed frustration that the Prime Minister has not yet moved off her red lines so we can reach a compromise.
‘The key issues that we must see real movement on to secure an agreement are a customs union with the EU, alignment with the single market and full dynamic alignment of workers’ rights, environmental protections and consumer standards.’ Downing Street confirmed the ‘technical’ talks were restarting this evening after phone calls and email were exchanged over the weekend.
Asked if the Government was being serious about the discussions, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Talks have to mean a movement and so far there has been no change in those red lines.’ Mr Corbyn added: ‘We are looking for movement. Because we do not want to see a crashing out of the EU with no deal.’
With only two days to go to a crunch Brussels summit at which the other 27 EU member states will decide whether to grant the Prime Minster’s request for a further delay to Brexit, Downing Street insisted Mrs May was treating the cross-party talks with ‘urgency’. But there appeared little prospect of a compromise agreement being in place in time for Wednesday’s EU meeting, and no chance of it being approved by MPs before the EU27 meet.
Mrs May is to make a whistle-stop trip to Berlin and Paris for last-minute talks with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron on the eve of the emergency summit. And she spoke by phone with European Council president Donald Tusk, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, Dutch PM Mark Rutte and Malta’s Joseph Muscat to set out the case for extending the Brexit process to June 30.
The unanimous agreement of all 27 is needed to avoid the UK leaving without a deal on Friday. Mr Tusk has recommended a one-year extension to the Brexit process, with a break clause allowing an earlier departure if a withdrawal deal is ratified in Westminster.
Following his call with Mrs May, Mr Rutte said it would be ‘crucial’ for the EU27 to know ‘when and on what basis’ the UK will ratify its Withdrawal Agreement. Tuesday’s weekly meeting of Cabinet has been cancelled due to Mrs May’s travels, with no rescheduled date announced.
In a video message recorded in her Chequers country retreat at the weekend, Mrs May said both sides in the cross-party talks will have to compromise. The Prime Minister acknowledged she could not see the Commons accepting her deal in its current form and MPs would not agree to a no-deal exit. If no deal can be reached with Labour, Mrs May has committed to putting a series of Brexit options to the Commons and being bound by the result.
She hopes to have a solution ratified in time to allow the UK to leave the EU by May 22, avoiding the need to take part in European Parliament elections the following day. But a Cabinet Office spokesperson tonight said the Government has ‘taken the necessary steps required by law should we have to participate’ in European Parliamentary elections.