Cross-Party Brexit Talks Collapse As May And Corbyn Fail To Agree Deal

Labour leader pulled the plug.

Cross-party Brexit talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have collapsed after six weeks of negotiation, it has been confirmed.

The Labour leader has told the prime minister that the two sides had been “unable to bridge important policy gaps between us”, and that the talks have gone “as far as they can”.

The prime minister and Labour leader will now focus on an “indicative votes” process designed to find a consensus in parliament.

Speaking in North London, Corbyn confirmed he had written to the PM and said talks had “reached what I believe to be a natural conclusion”.

He added: “The Prime Minister has announced the date she’s leaving, there have been increasing noises off stage by Conservative Cabinet ministers and others who don’t agree with much of the talks or any of the discussions we are holding, so we are concluding the talks.”

The PM, meanwhile, appeared to blame Labour for the talks breaking down.

“We have not been able to overcome the fact that there is not a common position in Labour about whether they want to deliver Brexit or hold a second referendum which could reverse it,” she said.

Downing Street, meanwhile acknowledged “we are not going to be able to reach a complete agreement” with Labour and said the discussions on customs arrangements and a second referendum had been “very challenging”.

A Number 10 source told reporters on Friday that it was clear the Labour Party was “split” over whether to support a second referendum on Brexit, describing shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer’s view on holding a second poll “very strident”.

It came as a leaked document revealed Labour and the Conservatives had discussed a preferential voting system in the Commons on a customs union plan - something which would have effectively guaranteed a deal would be pushed through - before talks broke down.

Speaking on Friday, Corbyn said the party would not rule out a second referendum.

“But it wouldn’t be a referendum on 2016 terms, it would be a referendum to prevent a no-deal, catastrophic exit from the European Union,” he said.

The collapse comes after May gave a timetable for her exit to Sir Graham Brady, the chairman of the powerful committee of backbench Tory MPs, on Thursday, meaning a Conservative leadership contest will soon be triggered.

Boris Johnson, Esther McVey, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab are among the names in the frame.

May will make a last ditch bid to salvage her deal before her departure, however, by bringing the Withdrawal Agreement Bill before parliament on the week of June 3.

Both parties, meanwhile, are expected to take a hit in the European elections with Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and the pro-Remain Greens and Lib Dems expected to make gains.

Asked if he could do business with a new Conservative Prime Minister such as Boris Johnson, Corbyn said: “Whoever the Tory Party decide is going to be their leader we will put our case and we will challenge them.”

Referring to the cross-party talks, which have been ongoing for some six weeks after the EU granted the UK an extension to the Article 50 deadline, he added: “It was not shadow boxing.

“We have negotiated seriously in them and my team has worked extremely hard and extremely responsibly on this.”

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We have made real progress on some issues such as workers’ rights and environmental protections, but it is clear that we are not going to be able to reach a complete agreement.

“In particular there have been very challenging discussions in respect of the different positions of the two sides on customs and the holding of a second referendum.

“The Prime Minister continues to believe it is the duty of elected politicians to deliver on the result of the referendum.

“She continues to work hard on securing the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill so that the UK can leave the EU with a deal as soon as possible.”

PA Wire/PA Images

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