Hopes of Brexit breakthrough fade as Labour accuse government of failing to budge

Posted On: 
5th April 2019

Hopes of the Government and Labour agreeing a Brexit deal have faded after Theresa May was accused of failing to budge on her red lines.

Labour negotiators Seumas Milne, Rebecca Long Bailey and Keir Starmer.
PA Images

Negotiators for both sides held more than four hours of talks on Thursday as they search for a compromise agreement which can be presented to the Commons.

More discussions are scheduled for Friday, but there is frustration on the Labour side that the Government seems unwilling to make the concessions necessary for a breakthrough.

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One source told PoliticsHome: "It’s still the Government talking about its current deal and reiterating why they think it’s a good deal. In other words, no big offer made from their side but the talks are ongoing."

Cabinet ministers David Lidington, Steve Barclay, Julian Smith and Greg Clark, plus Theresa May's chief of staff and Gavin Barwell, led the talks for the Government.

Labour's negotiating team was Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer and Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long Bailey, as well as communications and strategy chief Seumas Milne.

Theresa May announced on Tuesday that she wanted Jeremy Corbyn's help to come up with a deal that the majority of MPs could support. 

The pair held initial discussions on Wednesday, but the Labour leader said afterwards "there hasn’t been as much change as I expected" in the Prime Minister's position.

According to The Guardian, the Prime Minister is drawing up a letter to Mr Corbyn detailing the Government's offer.

Labour has said that any deal should involve a permanent customs union with the EU - something the Prime Minister has consistently ruled out.

Mr Corbyn is also under pressure from many of his own frontbenchers to insist that any deal be put to the public in a second EU referendum.

The Telegraph reports that a so-called "confirmatory ballot" has been discussed as a possible option to be put to MPs in a series of indicative votes on possible Brexit options.

Mrs May spokesman said on Thursday: "Both parties will need to engage constructively and in a spirit of compromise if this is to be successful."

The Prime Minister has also said that if no agreement can be reached with Labour, the Government plans to give MPs a choice of various Brexit options in a series of so-called "indicative votes".

However, the chances of those taking place before next Wednesday's emergency EU council are now thought to be receding, meaning Mrs May is likely to be forced to seek a lengthy extension to Article 50 when she travels to Brussels.