Labour ends Brexit compromise talks with government

Talks have been ongoing for a month as part of efforts to find a way to pass withdrawal agreement reached with European Union


By Emilio Casalicchio

17 May 2019

Photo: PA

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has today pulled the plug on the cross-party Brexit talks with Theresa May, telling the prime minister the discussions had gone “as far as they can”.

In a letter today, Corbyn said the “increasing weakness and instability of the government” had made it impossible to reach a deal.

May requested the talks with Corbyn in April in a bid to find a Brexit compromise that Labour could support and secure a Commons majority for a way forward.


But they hit the rocks after the two sides were unable to come to an agreement on customs, among other things, and have been dragging on without progress for weeks.

This morning, Corbyn wrote to the prime minister calling an end to the talks, saying despite some areas of compromise they had been “unable to bridge important policy gaps between us”.

He added that Labour had little confidence in a future Conservative leader honouring any deal, after the prime minister announced she would lay out a timetable for her departure in early June.

He wrote that “the talks between us about finding a compromise agreement on leaving the European Union have now gone as far as they can”.

“It has become clear that, while there are some areas where compromise has been possible, we have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us,” Mr Corbyn explained.

“Even more crucially, the increasing weakness and instability of your government means there cannot be confidence in securing whatever might be agreed between us.”

And he said: “As you have been setting out your decision to stand down and Cabinet ministers are competing to succeed you, the position of the government has become ever more unstable and its authority eroded. Not infrequently, proposals by your negotiating team have been publicly contradicted by statements from other members of the Cabinet.”

Meanwhile, a document leaked this morning suggests May wants to hold a series of votes in the Commons to determine whether MPs want a second Brexit referendum or a no-deal departure.

It suggests MPs could get to vote in order of preference on a series of customs proposals, and the possibility of quitting the EU on 31 July, according to a number of publications.

Crucially, the Independent says May is willing to give her MPs a free vote on a second referendum, if Corbyn is willing to do the same.

Corbyn said in his letter: “After six weeks of talks, it is only right that the Government now wishes again to test the will of Parliament, and we will carefully consider any proposals the Government wishes to bring forward to break the Brexit deadlock.”

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