Brexit rocks Labour too as talks stay deadlocked
Prime Minister Theresa May has turned to the opposition Labour to help pass the crucial EU withdrawal package, but the party is also riven by differing views on Brexit, with many party MPs opposed to another referendum.
Talks between Prime Minister Theresa May’s team and senior Labour leaders continued on Thursday, without any progress, but as many as 25 party MPs wrote to leader Jeremy Corbyn that another referendum should not be part of any compromises deal.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Today both sets of negotiating teams met for four and a half hours of detailed and productive technical talks in the Cabinet Office, supported by the civil service. The Government and the Opposition hope to meet again tomorrow for further work to find a way forward to deliver on the referendum, mindful of the need to make progress ahead of the forthcoming European Council.”
Another referendum – called a ‘confirmatory referendum’ – is Labour policy decided at the last party conference. But MPs representing constituencies that overwhelmingly voted to leave the EU are in an uneasy position.
The 25 MPs wrote to Corbyn: “Delaying for many months in the hope of a second referendum will simply divide the country further and add uncertainty for business. A second referendum would be exploited by the far right, damage the trust of many core Labour voters and reduce our chances of winning a general election.”
The opposition within Labour to another referendum came at a time when the idea is gaining momentum in Westminster. Chancellor Philip Hammond described holding another referendum to confirm the withdrawal agreement as “a perfectly credible proposition”.
The May government suffered another reverse in the House of Commons on Wednesday night when a cross-bench bill to prevent the UK leaving the EU without an agreement scraped through by 313 to 312 votes. It was being debated in the House of Lords on Thursday.
Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said he hoped the Lords would “scrutinise this bill passed in haste with its constitutional flaws”.
In Brussels, the European Parliament approved a law allowing Britons visa-free travel to the 27-nation group in the event of the UK leaving the EU without an agreement, despite outrage in some quarters over the status of Gibraltar.
The law will allow British visitors 90-day trips to the Schengen passport-free zone, but its implementation will depend on Britain according EU citizens reciprocal rights. London has said it will offer similar rights, if the no-deal scenario occurs.
The bill triggered a bitter row after member states -- at Spain’s urging -- referred in a footnote of the draft to Gibraltar as a “colony of the British crown”.