Sunday 17 December 2017

EU talking to Labour amid concerns May's government on brink

Theresa May Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Theresa May Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire

James Crisp and Kate McCann

EU negotiators have "significantly" increased back-room talks with the British Labour Party because they are becoming concerned that Theresa May's administration will collapse before Brexit is complete.

Brussels is seeking assurances from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn that he will honour agreements reached by the EU with the Conservatives if he comes to power.

Sources said there had been "a significant change in tone" from Brussels towards Labour since the general election and that meetings since then had been at a higher level and more frequent.

Both Mr Corbyn and Keir Starmer, the shadow Brexit secretary, have held meetings with Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief negotiator, and Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European Commission, and others, including members of the Brexit negotiating teams.

Meanwhile, Nigel Sheinwald, Britain's former permanent representative in Brussels, said Mrs May's vulnerability was now a "destabilising" influence on the negotiations.

Mrs May's calamitous conference speech and her failure to unite her party behind her Brexit plans have caused concern in Brussels ahead of the resumption of Brexit talks on Monday.

Mrs May will travel to Brussels on October 19 for a meeting of the European Council, which is expected to refuse to allow Brexit negotiators to begin trade talks with the UK.

This will mean that no progress will be made on trade talks until at least December, when the council next meets.

Yesterday, Mrs May played down calls for her to quit and said she would continue to provide "calm leadership".

Speaking for the first time since her mishap-strewn conference speech in Manchester, she said she had the full backing of her cabinet.

She is also expected to take on her critics in a media blitz next week, thought to include a radio phone-in, in an unusual move for the typically reserved Mrs May. It comes after Grant Shapps, the former Conservative Party chairman, was identified as the ringleader of 30 rebel MPs who are attempting to force her from office.

Facing the cameras in her constituency of Maidenhead, Berkshire, Mrs May said: "Now what the country needs is calm leadership and that's what I am providing with the full support of my Cabinet."

Earlier, MPs claimed a backbench plot to oust her from No 10 was set to "fizzle out".

Charles Walker, vice chairman of the Tories' 1922 Committee, said the attempt to force a leadership contest lacked credibility and was doomed to fail. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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