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Brexit: May govt-Labour talks end without consensus

May was forced to turn to Labour after the EU withdrawal agreement was voted down thrice in the House of Commons, including by a large section of rebels in her own party.

world Updated: May 17, 2019 19:11 IST
consensus,Brexit,May govt-Labour talks
The six-week long exercise to explore a consensus between the Theresa May government and the opposition Labour ended on Friday without a consensus, a denouement expected given the intractable positions of the two sides on Brexit.(AFP)

The six-week long exercise to explore a consensus between the Theresa May government and the opposition Labour ended on Friday without a consensus, a denouement expected given the intractable positions of the two sides on Brexit.

May was forced to turn to Labour after the EU withdrawal agreement was voted down thrice in the House of Commons, including by a large section of rebels in her own party. There was much uneasiness on both sides when the talks began.

Besides the fundamental differences in the two sides’ positions, a key concern for Labour was engaging in talks when there was no guarantee that any consensus would be honoured by the successor of May, who is due to resign in the near future.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to May: “I am writing to let you know that I believe the talks between us about finding a compromise agreement on leaving the European Union have now gone as far as they can”.

“(It) has become clear that, while there are some areas where compromise has been possible, we have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us. Even more crucially, the increasing weakness and instability of your government means there cannot be confidence in securing whatever might be agreed between us”.

Labour, Corbyn wrote, is concerned the May government’s ability to deliver on any compromise agreement, noting that cabinet ministers have been ‘competing’ to succeed May and the government’s authority ‘eroded’.

May has announced plans to re-introduce the withdrawal bill in the week beginning June 3. Conservative rebels and others have already announced their intention to vote against it again, since nothing has changed since the last time it was defeated in the House of Commons.

Corbyn informed May that Labour would consider any proposals to break the Brexit deadlock, but added: “I should reiterate that, without significant changes, we will continue to oppose the government’s deal as we do not believe it safeguards jobs, living standards and manufacturing industry in Britain”.

May blamed Labour for the collapse of the talks: “As Jeremy Corbyn says, actually these talks have been constructive and we’ve made progress. There have been areas where we have been able to find common ground. But other issues have proved to be more difficult.”

“And, in particular, we haven’t been able to overcome the fact that there isn’t a common position in Labour about whether they want to deliver Brexit or hold a second referendum which could reverse it”.

First Published: May 17, 2019 18:25 IST