Theresa May accuses Labour of dragging its feet in Brexit negotiations

Posted On: 
23rd April 2019

Hopes of a breakthrough in the Brexit talks have diminished even further after Theresa May accused the opposition of dragging its feet in the negotiations.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn remain far apart on Brexit.
PA Images

The Prime Minister told her Cabinet that the talks have been "difficult" in some areas, such as the timetable for the discussions.

Both sides are also understood to remain far apart on the issue of a post-Brexit customs union, which Labour is pushing for but which Mrs May opposes.

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In a further sign of how the negotiations are at a stalemate, Jeremy Corbyn said there needed to be "changes" to the Government's strategy for a deal to be done.

The Cabinet spent around an hour discussing Brexit and Mrs May's spokesman said: "The Prime Minister said discussions with Labour had been serious but had also been difficult in some areas, such as the timetable for negotiations."

A Number 10 source said: "Our position is we need to get this done, theirs is 'we need more time'."

The Prime Minister's remarks are significant because, up until now, the Government has stopped short of publicly criticising Labour's approach to the talks.

Mrs May is eager for them to be wrapped up in time for the Withdrawal Agreement Bill to be passed by MPs before it is too late for the UK to pull out of next month's European Parliament elections.

Her spokesman said: "Cabinet agreed on the need to secure safe passage of the WAB through Parliament as soon as possible."

But speaking as Tory and Labour frontbenchers prepared for the latest round of negotiations, Mr Corbyn said the Government must be prepared to compromise more.

He said: "There’s got to be some changes by the Government. We cannot go on just hearing this tired old mantra that the Brexit agreement has to be adhered to. The Brexit agreement has been three times rejected by Parliament.

"What we’re saying is that there must be a dynamic relationship, protection of rights at work, rights on what we consume and protection of our natural world as well of course access to markets which are essential for industry in this country and a customs union which would ensure there is no hard border in Northern Ireland and would ensure that we are able continue that kind of relationship in the future,.

"People might have voted to leave or to remain in the referendum nearly 3 years ago - they didn’t vote to lose their jobs, they didn’t vote to have a de-regulated society.

"I believe the Labour approach can and does bring people together to have a sensible relationship in the future. That’s what we’re putting forward this afternoon. Let’s see how it goes but the Government really does need to move on a bit and it cannot try to separate out the future political relationship document from the withdrawal agreement."