- Jeremy Corbyn has pulled out of Brexit talks with Theresa May
- Labour’s decision means the prime minister now has little chance of passing her Brexit deal.
- May had hoped to bring her Brexit Withdrawal Bill to the House of Commons at the start of June.
- She is now expected to move to holding a series of “indicative votes” on alternatives to her deal instead.
- Labour’s move comes after new polling suggests Remain-voters are deserting the Labour party.
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LONDON – Jeremy Corbyn has pulled out of Brexit talks with Theresa May in a major blow to the prime minister’s hopes of passing a Brexit deal.
In a letter to May, the Labour leader said the talks had “gone as far as they can” due to “the increasing weakness and instability” of the government.
He said the two sides had been unable to reach a compromise, with growing concern within the shadow Cabinet that May’s planned departure meant that any deal would be unlikely to last.
The announcement means that Theresa May now has little chance of passing her Brexit deal through parliament when she brings it back for a fourth time at the start of next month.
The prime minister had hoped to secure agreement with Labour to support, or abstain, on the crucial Brexit legislation required to take Britain out of the EU .
However, Labour today confirmed they will oppose the bill.
“Without significant changes, we will continue to oppose the Government’s deal,” Corbyn wrote in his letter to May.
The announcement, alongside repeated commitments from the Democratic Unionist Party, which props up May’s minority government, to continue opposing the bill, means it will now almost certainly be defeated.
Defeat next month would likely spell the end of her premiership.
The Chair of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers said on Thursday that the prime minister had agreed to set out her departure plans in order to allow a contest to replace her, in the immediate aftermath of the vote.
The prime minister is now expected move to her ‘Plan B’ which is to set up a series of “indicative votes” on alternative options to May’s deal.
A draft of the planned votes leaked to ITV, suggests that they will include the option of remaining in the Customs Union and holding a second referendum on the terms of May’s deal.
In his letter Corbyn said he would consider any such proposals to break the Brexit “deadlock.”
Responding to Corbyn’s decision, Theresa May said that the “talks have been constructive and we have made progress.”
Speaking at the launch of the Conservative Party’s European election campaign, she added that “we haven’t been able to overcome the fact that there isn’t a common position in Labour over whether they want to deliver Brexit or have a second referendum which could reverse it.”
Business groups reacted with dismay to the collapse of talks.
“Another day of failed politics, another dispiriting day for British business,” Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said.
“Six wasted weeks while uncertainty paralyses our economy. The May parliamentary recess should be cancelled and used to agree a deal as soon as possible – whether through indicative votes or the Withdrawal Agreement. Business and the country need an urgent resolution to this mess. This is no time for holidays. It’s time to get on with it.”
Read Corbyn’s letter to May
Dear Prime Minister,
I am writing to let you know that I believe the talks between us about finding a compromise agreement on leaving the European Union have now gone as far as they can. I would like to put on record that the talks have been conducted in good faith on both sides and thank those involved for their efforts to find common ground.
The talks have been detailed, constructive and have involved considerable effort for both our teams. However, 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.
Even more crucially, the increasing weakness and instability of your government means there cannot be confidence in securing whatever might be agreed between us. As I said when we met on Tuesday evening, there has been growing concern in both the Shadow Cabinet and parliamentary Labour Party about the government’s ability to deliver on any compromise agreement.
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.
In recent days we have heard senior Cabinet ministers reject any form of customs union, regardless of proposals made by government negotiators. And despite assurances we have been given on protection of environmental, food and animal welfare standards, the International Trade Secretary has confirmed that importing chlorinated chicken as part of a US trade deal remains on the table.
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.
However, I should reiterate that, without significant changes, we will continue to oppose the Government’s deal as we do not believe it safeguards jobs, living standards and manufacturing industry in Britain.
Corbyn tries to win back Remainers
The Labour leader’s decision comes as new polling suggests that Remain-voters have deserted the party in large numbers, since he first entered talks with the prime minister.
A new YouGov poll puts the party in third place behind the Liberal Democrats and Nigel Farage’s Brexit party.
Corbyn has come under growing pressure from Remainers in his party to more explicitly back a second referendum on Britain’s exit from the EU.
The Labour leader has committed the party to retaining the “option” of a second vote, but only if the option of a Labour deal, or a general election, becomes impossible.
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