Theresa May In Last-Minute Dash For Brexit Talks With Merkel And Macron

She is expected to set out the rationale behind her request for another delay.

Theresa May is set for last-minute talks with Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron, just a day ahead of an EU summit where leaders will decide whether to grant another Brexit delay.

The prime minister will travel to Berlin and Paris on Tuesday for bilateral meetings with the German and French leaders, for what Downing Street said was normal engagement before Wednesday night’s European Council.

The last-minute talks make it unlikely that any compromise Brexit deal thrashed out with Labour will be put before MPs ahead of the summit.

May has requested a short Article 50 delay to avoid a no-deal Brexit on Friday, with the option of leaving sooner if the impasse in Westminster is broken and a deal passes the Commons.

She is expected to outline to the German chancellor and French president the rationale behind her request for a delay to the date of Brexit from April 12 to June 30.

Council president Donald Tusk is pushing a longer one year “flextension” plan, and there is speculation that Macron could block any delay unless it includes onerous conditions to try and force the UK to finally resolve the Brexit crisis.

If no extension is agreed by the 27 other EU leaders and May, the UK will fall out of the bloc on Friday April 12 with no deal.

May’s trip means the usual Tuesday morning cabinet meeting will be cancelled at a highly sensitive time as the government continues controversial compromise talks with Labour.

However, cabinet Brexiteers from the so-called “pizza club” group of ministers were holding talks with May at Downing Street on Monday afternoon, after demanding clarity on her plans for Labour talks and the summit.

Despite backbench Tory concerns the PM will agree to a customs union to get Labour backing, some ministers are potentially willing to compromise on the issue as long as future governments can leave arrangements agreed now, a government source told HuffPost UK.

That will however concern Labour, which is thought to want to lock in concessions now so they cannot be ripped up by a Brexiteer Tory leader who could take over within months.

The pizza club ministers are also highly concerned that May will be forced to agree a long Brexit extension with the UK taking part in European elections in May.

The source warned this could be a resigning issue for some.

The meeting came as Commons Leader Andrea Leadsom prepared to confirm that MPs will be given a vote on Tuesday on a Brexit extension as provided for in Yvette Cooper’s anti-no deal legislation, which is expected to pass through parliament today.

Labour on Friday accused ministers of failing to offer any concessions, but Downing Street said that dialogue had continued through the weekend and that the government is hoping for the resumption of face-to-face talks on Monday.

The PM has angered Tories by holding talks with Labour, with Brexiteers including Boris Johnson concerned she will accept a customs union as the price for a deal with Jeremy Corbyn.

May committed to leaving both the single market and customs union in the Tories’ 2017 election manifesto.

But Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested the government has abandoned its “red lines” in the talks with Labour.

Arriving in Luxembourg for a meeting of the EU foreign affairs council, Hunt said: “You can’t go into any of those discussions with big red lines because otherwise there is no point having them, but we are very clear about the type of Brexit we want - that’s in our manifesto and we’ve made that clear.

“What I’ll be saying to my European colleagues today is that you can see from this that Theresa May is leaving no stone unturned to try and resolve Brexit.

“They want Brexit to be resolved as quickly as possible, so do we, so do the British people, so do MPs and so we are doing absolutely everything we can to try and get a resolution to get Brexit over the line.”