Theresa May is hoping to conclude Brexit talks with Labour by the middle of next week in a bid to break the impasse delaying the UK’s exit from the EU, HuffPost UK understands.
Senior ministers have been locked in talks with Labour’s top team for much of the past month in an attempt to break the logjam that prompted the prime minister to delay Brexit until the end of October.
Despite scepticism about how seriously both sides were taking the process, there were glimmers of hope on Monday as the PM’s deputy David Lidington said he was “encouraged” after sensing agreement on the need to “inject greater urgency”.
Downing Street also described the negotiations as “serious and constructive”.
Negotiations are mainly focused on achieving a cross-party deal that would allow both sides to support the legislation needed to deliver Brexit.
But the government and Labour are also talking about alternatively agreeing a process for another round of parliamentary votes on different Brexit options, if a cross-party deal cannot be struck.
There is however scepticism that Labour will agree to be bound by another “indicative votes” process without knowing the outcome.
And Jeremy Corbyn is unlikely to agree a cross-party deal that does not include a customs union, something which would risk causing uproar in the Tory party and will therefore be very difficult for May to back.
Top ministers received an update on the talks from May, Lidington and Chief Whip Julian Smith at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting
The PM’s official spokesman said negotiations would continue with the aim of bringing the process to an end, as the Tories have no desire to either take part in European elections on May 23 or send MEPs to the European parliament at the beginning of July.
May is understood to be willing to give the talks around another eight days before pulling the plug.
The spokesman told reporters: “Cabinet received an update on the Brexit talks with the opposition, including the negotiations last night which were serious and constructive.
“Further talks will now be scheduled in order to bring the process toward a conclusion.
“Cabinet also discussed the need to secure safe passage of the withdrawal agreement bill as soon as possible in order to deliver upon the result of the referendum.”