Brexit talks between Conservatives and Labour collapse

Jeremy Corbyn says talks on deal ‘have gone on as far as they can’ in letter to Theresa May

Britain's tumultuous divorce from the EU is again in disarray as the opposition Labour Party declared last-ditch cross-party talks dead as Prime Minister Theresa May's premiership crumbles. Video: Reuters

 

Labour is pulling out of cross-party Brexit talks, with Jeremy Corbyn writing to Theresa May to say that a lack of progress and government instability means the discussions “have now gone as far as they can”.

In a letter to the prime minister, released on Friday, the Labour leader said the talks, designed to find a compromise Brexit plan, had taken place in good faith on both sides and had been “detailed [and] constructive”.

He went on: “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.”

The letter says Labour will “carefully consider” any new proposals, such as the government’s stated next plan of presenting MPs with a series of options to vote on.

He added: “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.”

Mrs May has been under intense pressure from many Conservative MPs since the surprise announcement of the talks at the start of last month, with Tories fearful she would agree to Labour’s demand for a customs union to get a Brexit plan through parliament.

However, a round of talks, primarily between ministers, shadow ministers and officials – though also some directly between Mrs May and Mr Corbyn – brought complaints from Labour that no real compromises were being offered.

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The pound fell below $1.28 on Friday for the first time since February after the BBC led bulletins predicting the imminent demise of the process. There was no immediate comment from Downing Street or Labour.

If the process does end, then Mrs May has said the next step would be to present MPs with a series of options on Brexit for them to decide on a possible compromise. However, this plan is also fraught with uncertainties, not least whether Labour would support it. – Guardian

Letter in full

Below is the letter Jeremy Corbyn sent to Theresa 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. Yours sincerely, Jeremy Corbyn”