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May to meet Merkel and Macron for Brexit talks

Time is running out for the Prime Minister to reach agreement with Labour ahead of a summit with European leaders this week.

Theresa May has defended her decision to hold cross-party talks with Labour (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Theresa May has defended her decision to hold cross-party talks with Labour (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Prime Minister Theresa May is to visit the French and German leaders for Brexit talks, officials have said.

Mrs May will meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Tuesday.

Time is running out for the PM to reach a Brexit compromise with Labour ahead of a summit with European leaders on Wednesday.

She 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.

But Culture Secretary Jeremy Wright agreed there was a need for compromise during the talks with Labour, although these have not yet been confirmed as continuing today.

Mrs May has told European Union leaders she wants a delay to Brexit until June 30 at the latest, with the possibility of an early exit if she can get a deal through Parliament.

But Brussels is expected to demand a clear strategy from the Prime Minister at a meeting of EU leaders on Wednesday and could insist on a longer delay which would require the UK to participate in European elections.

In a video message recorded in her Chequers country retreat, Mrs May said both sides will have to compromise in the cross-party talks with Labour.

The negotiations stalled after Labour said the Prime Minister had refused to set out any changes to her Brexit red lines and no further face-to-face meetings have yet been confirmed.

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(PA Graphics)

Mrs May acknowledged that she could not see the Commons accepting her deal in its current form and MPs would not agree to a no-deal exit – currently the default position at 11pm on Friday unless an extension is granted.

That was the reason for the “new approach” of cross-party talks with Labour as “the choice that lies ahead of us is either leaving the EU with a deal or not leaving at all”.

She said: “It’ll mean compromise on both sides but I believe that delivering Brexit is the most important thing for us.”

If no deal can be reached with Labour, Mrs May has committed to putting a series of Brexit options to the Commons and being bound by the result.

If the UK were to commit to remaining in the customs union, it would make a total and utter nonsense of the referendum result Boris Johnson

Mr Wright backed Mrs May and called for compromise in Brexit talks between Labour and the Government so the UK could leave the EU “on the best possible terms”.

The Culture Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I think we have to move forward… We must make sure we’re all prepared to compromise to fulfil that primary objective.

“I think that’s achievable. I would prefer we did it on the basis of the Prime Minister’s deal … But if we can’t do that then let’s find another way forward.”

However, Labour’s Andy McDonald said there appeared to be little sign of compromise and suggested another referendum is the likely outcome of Brexit talks.

The shadow transport secretary told Today: “My view is if our proposition was accepted in its totality I think the argument for a public vote in those circumstances reduces.

“The reality is that is not on the table, so I think we’re looking at options that would warrant a PV (People’s Vote) in those circumstances.

“We’ve got to look at the offer on the table at the moment and what we’re looking at is Theresa May’s deal or no deal.”

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Prime Minister Theresa May and her husband Philip attend a Sunday church service ahead of another crucial week for the Brexit process (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Former foreign secretary Boris Johnson used his Daily Telegraph column to warn that Tory MPs would not allow Mrs May to “surrender” to Mr Corbyn.

“If the UK were to commit to remaining in the customs union, it would make a total and utter nonsense of the referendum result,” he said.

“To agree to be non-voting members of the EU, under the surrender proposed by Jeremy Corbyn – it cannot, must not and will not happen.”

In a further sign of the constraints on Mrs May, Brexiteer Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt warned a long delay to Brexit would be unacceptable to the public and businesses which were already “having to prepare for a whole raft of eventualities”.

Shadow business minister Rebecca Long-Bailey, a member of Labour’s negotiating team, said while it was “disappointing” that there had not been any shift in the Government’s red lines last week, “the overall mood is quite a positive and hopeful one”.

Ms Long-Bailey told BBC’s Andrew Marr Show: “The proposals we have seen from the Government so far and their direction of travel over the last two years have not been compliant with the definition of a customs union.”.

But she indicated that talks aimed at reaching a deal with the Tories were expected to continue early this week, and confirmed revoking Article 50 was still an option to avoid no deal.

On Monday, peers will continue considering Yvette Cooper’s Bill forcing the Prime Minister to request a Brexit extension rather than leave the EU with no deal.

Meanwhile, EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will travel to Ireland for talks with Leo Varadkar ahead of Wednesday’s summit.

At the weekend, the Taoiseach said his preference was for a longer delay than the June 30 date proposed by Mrs May and added that it was “extremely unlikely” that any one of the 27 EU leaders would use their veto over an extension at the European Council meeting.

PA

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