Britain’s government has been forced to talk to Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn to save Brexit, Andrea Leadsom, its leader in the House of Commons, said on Sunday, suggesting ministers were ready to compromise with the opposition leader.
“Specifically provided we are leaving the European Union, then it is important that we compromise, that’s what this is about and it is through gritted teeth. But nevertheless the most important thing is to actually leave the EU,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show.
She suggested that Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposal for a customs arrangement with the EU after Brexit was not too far from Labour’s insistence on a customs union.
In a last-ditch bid to get her deal through Parliament, May opened talks with Corbyn last week to try to strike a deal on Britain’s future ties with the EU in exchange for his support for her divorce deal, the Withdrawal Agreement.
So far those talks have failed to yield any kind of accord, with Labour policy chiefs saying the government has yet to move from its “red lines” to support a post-Brexit customs union.
May set out at the start of negotiations by supporting a “clean Brexit” that would not see Britain share the EU’s system of external trade tariffs after it withdraws from the trading bloc.
In a statement released late Saturday, May admitted Brexit could only be delivered with support from the opposition Labour Party.
Some Tory MPs have criticized her for attempting a compromise with Labour.
The prime minister acknowledged that her plan to pull Britain out of the EU had now been rejected by MPs three times, and after failing to win over her own party and Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, May said “a new approach” was needed.
Britain is due to leave the EU on Friday unless May can secure another delay from the EU, which already agreed to postpone the Brexit day originally set for March 29.
May now is asking for Britain’s departure to be pushed back until June 30, hoping to reach a compromise with Labour and a deal through Parliament in a matter of weeks.
“The longer this takes, the greater the risk of the U.K. never leaving at all,” May said in a statement.
But EU leaders favour a longer delay to avoid another round of cliff-edge preparations and politics. And they say the U.K. needs to put forward a concrete plan to end the stalemate to get any further postponement.
An extension requires unanimous approval from the 27 remaining leaders, some of whom are fed up with Brexit uncertainty and reluctant to prolong it further.
Last month, the EU gave Britain until April 12 to approve the Withdrawal Agreement it reached with the May’s government, to change course and seek a further delay to Brexit, or to crash out of the EU with no deal in place or transition period to cushion the shock.
The leaders of EU member countries are due to meet in Brussels Wednesday — two days before the April 12 deadline — to consider Britain’s request for a second extension.
Economists and business leaders have warned a no-deal Brexit would severely disrupt trade and travel, with tariffs and customs checks causing gridlocked British ports and possible shortages of some foods, medicines and other products.
Worries about a chaotic British exit are especially acute in Ireland, the only EU member that shares a land border with the U.K. Any customs checks or other obstacles along the currently invisible frontier would hammer the Irish economy and could undermine Northern Ireland’s peace process.
Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said Saturday that it was “extremely unlikely” any of the 27 countries would veto a delay.
“If one country was to veto an extension and, as a result, impose hardship on us, real problems for the Dutch and Belgians and French as neighbouring countries (to the U.K.) … they wouldn’t be forgiven for it,” he told Ireland’s RTE radio.
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