Belfast Telegraph

EU Election 2019

European elections to go ahead as deadlock continues

Prime Minister Theresa May (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Prime Minister Theresa May (Andrew Matthews/PA)

By Jennifer McKiernan

Cross-party Brexit talks have again failed to reach agreement, Labour has confirmed.

The news came after the Government's official acceptance that it cannot get its Brexit deal through Parliament in time to avoid European elections on May 23.

Theresa May's effective deputy David Lidington confirmed the elections will go ahead, but said the Government was "redoubling our efforts" to get an EU Withdrawal Agreement ratified by the start of July so the new MEPs never have to take their seats.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey confirmed negotiations on a new Brexit deal that could win a parliamentary majority have still to bear fruit.

"Nothing has been agreed yet," she said after a three-hour meeting. "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."

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."

Pressure on both sides to make progress was heightened by the parties' poor performance in last week's local elections, which both Conservative and Labour leaderships interpreted as a message from voters to get on with delivering Brexit.

Mrs May had been hoping the talks would deliver a compromise deal in time to allow her to call off the European elections.

But more than a month after the talks began, Mr Lidington acknowledged time is now too tight to get a Withdrawal Agreement Bill through both Houses of Parliament by the date of the poll.

Speaking at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, he said that, after its Withdrawal Agreement was rejected three times by MPs, the Government was trying to find "a way forward that has maximum possible support amongst politicians of all political parties".

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