May makes Brexit offer to Corbyn; to ask EU for more time

Cross-party talks between the British government and opposition Labour have failed to produce a breakthrough on Brexit, while the EU considers later this week whether to grant the UK an extension on leaving the bloc to June 30.

LONDON • British Prime Minister Theresa May yesterday made a compromise offer to Labour Party rival Jeremy Corbyn on a way out of the country's Brexit dilemma, but it did not include the key demand of a Customs union, according to a person familiar with the situation.

The offer was to be handed over by Mrs May's de facto deputy, Mr David Lidington, who has been leading the talks on behalf of the Prime Minister, according to the official, who asked not to be identified.

It was reported to be different from a proposal made last week, which did not include changes to the political declaration on Brexit, the person said.

A spokesman for Mrs May yesterday said the government had been in contact with the Labour Party and hoped there would be more talks later in the day to find a compromise on a Brexit deal. The spokesman offered few details of what communication the government had made with Labour, but said ministers were hoping to secure an agreement with the party on Brexit as soon as possible.

Mrs May is battling to contain a backlash from within her Conservative Party over her decision to work with Mr Corbyn, someone she has spent three years deriding.

She was set to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin and French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris today as she tries to convince EU leaders that she has a plan to break the deadlock at home, and only needs to delay Brexit a few months to execute it.

The European Union is considering pressing the United Kingdom to stay longer, mainly to avoid the prospect of recurring crises. Mrs May's office said the Prime Minister held calls with other EU leaders yesterday.

 
 
 
 
 

Meanwhile, debate was set to resume in the House of Lords yesterday on a draft law aimed at forcing the government to seek an extension to avoid a no-deal Brexit. The Bill raced through the House of Commons in a single day last Wednesday, but was held up in the House of Lords last Thursday.

Mrs May's Conservatives stand to gain in local elections next month if the Prime Minister can secure a Brexit deal, because of the swathe of the electorate who want the divorce over and done with, according to a Tory lord known for his electoral number crunching.

Some 8,374 seats are up for grabs across England in the May 2 council elections, more than half of them Conservative-held, said Mr Robert Hayward, an expert in district-by-district electoral data, in a briefing in Westminster.

That means the election is "target practice on Tory territory", Mr Hayward told reporters.

"There is no doubt in my mind that there is a Brexit benefit to the government if there is a deal," he said.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2019, with the headline 'May makes Brexit offer to Corbyn; to ask EU for more time'. Print Edition | Subscribe