Hopes of Brexit breakthrough rise as Labour and Tories hail 'productive' talks

Posted On: 
29th April 2019

Hopes of a Brexit deal being struck between Labour and the Government have risen after both sides said progress had been made in the latest round of talks.

Labour's negotiating team emerged from the Cabinet Office talks.
Credit: 
PA Images

David Lidington, the de facto deputy Prime Minister, said the Cabinet Office negotiations had been "positive and productive".

It is understood that Labour's negotiating team - which was made up of John McDonnell, Rebecca Long Bailey, Keir Starmer and Sue Hayman - believed the Government had shown a willingness to shift on some of their red lines.

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However, sources cautioned against an imminent breakthrough, with both sides still far apart on the issue of a post-Brexit customs union and the possibility of a second referendum.

Speaking after the talks, Mr Lidington said: "It's probably not sensible to set an absolutely hard and fast deadline... but I was encouraged by the sense in the room today about the need to inject greater urgency into this."

As Labour's ruling NEC prepares to meet on Tuesday to decide what the party's policy should be on another referendum, Shadow Environment Secretary Ms Hayman confirmed that the issue had been raised in the talks.

She said: "A public vote is on the agenda every time we meet and it will continue to do so and we're exploring ways in which we can work with the Government on this."

But Mr Lidington said: "We've always known this is part of Labour's policy platform, so it's something I would have expected them to raise at these meetings and they have.

"Equally, they know this is not something that is government policy and the last couple of time it has come before the House of Commons, it has been defeated."

Earlier, a spokesman for the Prime Minister all-but confirmed that the UK will have to take part in next month's European Parliament elections unless a deal can be agreed with Labour in the coming days.

He said: "“Every day where we don’t pass the Withdrawal Agreement Bill does make our participation in the European elections more likely, but we are continuing to work with the opposition to try to find an agreed way through this.

"The word I have consistently used is that there have been serious discussions - that remains the case.”