Tuesday 17 September 2019

May accuses Labour of dragging heels in talks

Jeremy Corbyn: The Labour leader called for a shift in May’s ‘red lines’. Photo: PA
Jeremy Corbyn: The Labour leader called for a shift in May’s ‘red lines’. Photo: PA

Andrew Woodcock

Theresa May has accused the UK Labour Party of dragging its feet over cross-party Brexit talks as discussions resumed following an 11-day Easter break.

The prime minister acknowledged Jeremy Corbyn's party was approaching the talks in a "serious" way but said they had hit difficulties over timetabling, with Conservatives pressing for greater urgency.

With Conservative MPs openly calling for Mrs May to name a date for her departure as prime minister, Downing Street is desperate to secure agreement in time to prevent European Parliament elections next month.

Officers of the Tory backbench 1922 Committee were meeting in Westminster yesterday evening to consider proposals to change party rules to allow MPs to challenge Mrs May's position as leader as early as June.

Ahead of the meeting, committee chairman Graham Brady met privately with the prime minister.

Meanwhile, the Remain-backing Change UK unveiled Boris Johnson's sister Rachel and former BBC correspondent Gavin Esler as candidates for the May 23 Euro elections, while Nigel Farage announced former communist Claire Fox would stand for the Brexit Party.

At the first meeting of the UK cabinet since the Easter recess, ministers discussed the progress of cross-party talks, including the impasse over Labour's insistence on future involvement in a customs union with the EU.

More talks are expected this week after the meeting broke up without agreement.

Mrs May's spokesman said: "The prime minister said discussions with Labour had been serious but had also been difficult in some areas, such as in relation to the timetable for the negotiations.

"The PM said the government's position was that progress needed to be made urgently as it was vital to deliver on the result of the referendum and for the UK to leave the European Union as soon as possible."

Mr Corbyn, however, put the blame for lack of progress on the government's refusal to shift on its "red lines".

"We'll continue putting our case but quite honestly there's got to be change in the government's approach," said the Labour leader.

"They cannot keep on just regurgitating what has already been emphatically rejected three times by Parliament - there's got to be a change."

Irish Independent

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