Theresa May to brief Cabinet on Brexit talks with Labour
The PM is expected to face calls to abandon cross-party negotiations when she meets senior ministers amid little sign of a breakthrough.
Theresa May is to brief senior ministers on the state of cross-party Brexit negotiations with Labour after the latest round of talks failed to achieve a breakthrough.
The meeting took place at Westminster amid signs the Prime Minister will face calls to finally abandon the talks when she chairs the weekly meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday.
Following the talks, Downing Street insisted efforts to find an agreed way forward that would allow Britain’s “orderly” withdrawal from the EU would continue.
“In preparation for an update to Cabinet tomorrow, today’s meeting took stock across the range of issues discussed in talks over the last few weeks,” a spokesman said.
“We continue to seek to agree a way forward in order to secure our orderly withdrawal from the EU.”
Labour also said that the shadow cabinet and the trade unions would be updated on what had been discussed.
However there is growing impatience among Tory MPs, fearful the continuing deadlock will see them suffer a drubbing at the hands of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party in the European elections on May 23.
Meanwhile Jeremy Corbyn has come under fire from both pro-Remain and pro-Brexit MPs in his party amid complaints that confusion over Labour’s position had cost them votes in the English council elections earlier this month.
At the weekly meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the pro-Remain MP Peter Kyle told the Labour leader their message on a second referendum had been too complicated and had left voters perplexed.
“I urge you to simplify our policy so people realise we are speaking with absolute sincerity,” he told Mr Corbyn.
Labour voters are divided in a very big way. If you don't get this right you cannot be prime minister John Mann MP
The pro-Brexit MP John Mann called on Mr Corbyn to give Labour MPs a free vote on Brexit issues to reflect the divisions within the party and the country.
“Labour voters are divided in a very big way. If you don’t get this right you cannot be prime minister,” he told him.
Mr Corbyn acknowledged the MPs’ “frustrations” and said he understood the need to simplify their message, telling them: “I get that”.
A Labour source said: “Our message is about bringing the country together.
“That means people who voted Leave and people who voted for Remain.”
Earlier, shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer and Labour deputy leader Tom Watson threw their weight behind calls for any Brexit deal to be put to a second referendum – something Mr Corbyn has resisted.
Sir Keir told the Guardian that “probably 120 if not 150” of the party’s 229 MPs could vote against a deal unless it was linked to a second referendum.
And he said: “I’ve made it clear that at this stage, at this 11th hour, any deal that comes through from this Government ought to be subject to the lock of a confirmatory vote.”
Mr Watson said a “confirmatory ballot” on Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement offered a way out of the impasse at a time when it seemed unlikely any deal could win a Commons majority.
“My idea of a confirmatory ballot is not a religious point or a point of ideology, it’s just how do you get an outcome, how do you sort this out?” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“And one way to do it are these two minority positions – the Prime Minister’s deal and those that think the people should have a say on the deal – plug them together and you build a majority.”
Mr Watson went on to use a speech on Monday to plead with voters to back Labour in the European elections to counter the threat posed by Mr Farage.
“There are only two forces that can win this election – that nasty nationalism of the Farage Brexit Party, or the tolerant, compassionate outward-looking patriotism of the Labour Party,” he said.
Mr Farage, campaigning in the Labour heartlands, said a confirmatory referendum was the “most outrageous proposal” he had ever seen and would lead to a party like his winning a majority in Parliament at the next general election.
“It means we stay in the European Union as we are, or we nominally leave and stay permanently part of a customs union and with single market rules,” he said.
“They wouldn’t even give the public the option of actually leaving.”
If the cross-party approach is abandoned, Mrs May has signalled that a series of votes would be held in the Commons with the aim of finding a Brexit plan that could command a majority, “ideally” with the support of Labour.