Corbyn halts Brexit talks with May

Cross-party Brexit talks have collapsed after Jeremy Corbyn told Theresa May they had ‘gone as far as they can’. 

The Labour leader pulled the plug on the negotiations, telling the Prime Minister ‘we have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us’.

Mr Corbyn also said the prospect of a change in Tory leadership meant the Government was becoming ‘ever more unstable and its authority eroded’ and Labour could not be confident in any cross-party agreement being delivered, report agencies.

Downing Street 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’.

Mrs May will set out the timetable for her departure in early June after a crucial Commons vote on the Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

In a letter to Mrs May, Mr Corbyn said: ‘I believe the talks between us about finding a compromise agreement on leaving the European Union have now gone as far as they can.’

He added: ‘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 parties’ negotiating teams had been holding talks over the last six weeks but the lack of a breakthrough caused frustration on the Labour side. Mr Corbyn, speaking in north London, said the Government had not moved its position ‘fundamentally’ and said the divisions in the Tory Party meant it is a ‘Government that is negotiating with no authority and no ability, that I can see, to actually deliver anything’.

Referring to the prospect of indicative votes, the Labour leader said: ‘This is a novel process which we will obviously look at whenever it comes to Parliament.’

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.’

No further discussions are planned with the Opposition, the spokesman confirmed.

The cross-party talks included discussions on whether to hold a series of indicative votes before the second reading of the WAB, designed to enable to UK to leave the EU before July 31, leaked documents revealed. But without cross-party agreement, the plans are expected to be abandoned.

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said: ‘Jeremy Corbyn was never going to come to an agreement on this. Why would he help the Tory Party?

‘I think more interesting is what Corbyn said last night about Labour’s position on a second referendum. They are now 95% of the way towards being a second referendum party.

‘Interestingly, the question they want to ask is a confirmatory referendum – and that would mean the existing European treaties or a new European treaty. And those of us that want to leave would have no one to vote for.

‘That poses the Labour Party a massive problem in the Midlands, the North, and south Wales.’

In response to the decision to call off the cross-party talks, former International Development Secretary Priti Patel tweeted: ‘Many of us did question the judgment of the Cabinet when they approved those talks…’

The post quote-tweeted a post from Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes who described the talks as ‘a complete waste of time from the outset’.