Theresa May is ready to delay Brexit to August in yet another bid to buy time for a compromise deal with Labour.
In her latest attempt to break the deadlock, the prime minister has set the House of Commons’ summer recess as a new deadline for Parliament to sign off her EU-UK ‘divorce deal’.
Newly-elected MEPs would even be allowed to take their seats in Strasbourg, as long as MPs finally approve May’s plans by the time they head off for their break in late July.
Under the fallback plan, devised to give more time for talks with the opposition, the UK would finally quit the EU on August 1.
Both No.10 and the PM’s de facto deputy David Lidington floated the new idea of a mid-summer Exit Day as talks resumed in Whitehall between ministers and Jeremy Corbyn’s top team.
Labour’s shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey said that the Tories had failed once more to show any movement on a customs union.
Tory backbenchers, already furious with May over her failure to get Britain out of the EU by March 29, reacted with dismay as Lidington formally confirmed the UK would take part in European Parliament elections later this month.
May has missed not just the March 29 deadline but also a late April deadline to avoid holding the Euro elections.
No.10 had hoped that if a deal with Labour could be done by June 30, elected MEPs won’t have to take their seats.
But backbench anger was set to intensify as Downing Street signalled further slippage in the date for Brexit, with the option of a summer exit day.
The PM’s spokesman said: “In relation to parliamentary timetables, we will look to complete this ideally by 30 June, but if not then by the summer recess.”
His remarks echoed those of Lidington, who had revealed that he hopes to “certainly to get this done and dusted by the summer recess”, which traditionally starts in late July.
After the last Brussels summit, May was forced into accepting a long extension to the UK’s EU membership to possibly October 31.
Few MPs at the time believed she would last until the autumn, but the latest summer idea is sure to fuel suspicions that an even longer delay could be likely.
After three hours of talks, Long-Bailey said there was still a failure to agree key issues of substance.
“Discussions today were very robust and we’re having further meetings this week where we hope to make some progress.
“The government needs to move on its red lines and we expect to make compromises, but without a government that’s willing to compromise, it’s difficult to see how any agreement can be reached, and I think the government is aware of that.”
But Long-Bailey said there had been no movement towards a customs union, temporary or otherwise, and would only say another referendum was “one of many options”.
She said: “We haven’t had any movement or agreement on a customs union, certainly not today, but we will see what the rest of the week holds.”
A No.10 spokesman said: “Today’s meeting was constructive and detailed. The teams have agreed to meet again for follow-up talks tomorrow afternoon, recognising the need to resolve the current Brexit deadlock in parliament.”