May reaches out to Corbyn to break Brexit impasse

LONDON — Theresa May cannot deliver Brexit with the support of her own party. So shes going to try to deliver it with the support of Jeremy Corbyn instead.

In a significant Downing Street statement on Tuesday evening, which followed marathon seven-hour talks with her Cabinet, the U.K. prime minister set out a plan to meet the Labour leader as soon as possible to try and find common ground on changes to the Political Declaration on the future relationship with the EU that they can jointly put to the House of Commons.

If they cannot agree, a series of votes will follow on different options for Brexit, and May for the first time pledged that her government would “abide by the decision of the house.”

“We can and must find the compromises that will deliver what the British people voted for,” May said in a televised address from No. 10 Downing Street. “This is a decisive moment in the story of these islands and it requires national unity to deliver the national interest.”

The new strategy, tied to a commitment to ask the EU27 next week for a further, short extension to Article 50 beyond April 12, was recognized by Corbyn as a genuine “move” and he welcomed her attempt to “reach out.”

It means that a softer Brexit, which includes elements of Labours plan — most importantly a customs union with the EU, which has already come within three votes of a majority in non-binding votes — is now much more likely to be supported by the Commons and implemented by the government.

Such an outcome would split Mays Conservative Party down the middle. Brexiteers within its ranks view an independent trade policy, which a customs union severely limits, as one of the fundamental pillars of what they consider a true exit from the EU. Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gave a flavor of the opprobrium that May will face from many of her own MPs, accusing her and her Cabinet of “entrust[ing] the final handling of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.”

It now seems all too likely that British trade policy and key lawmaking powers will be handed over to Brussels — with no say for the U.K.,” he said on Twitter.

The Cabinet itself was reportedly split on whether to seek the extension. A No. 1o official said ministers had reached a “collective decision” to back the proposals. But the view of many Cabinet ministers that a no-deal Brexit is preferable to a customs union is well known, and if such an outcome emerges from the next few days of horse-trading with Labour and in the House of Commons, resignations seem inevitable.

“People did not vote for a Corbyn-May coalition government, they voted for a Conservative government,” said backbench MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, following a meeting of the European Research Group of Brexiteer Conservatives that he chairs.

Comparing May to previous prime ministers Robert Peel and Ramsay MacDonald, both of who outraged their parties by reaching out to the opposition at moments of crisis, he added: “This is a deeply unsatisfactory approach. Its not in the interests of the country, it fails to deliver on the referendum result and history doesnt bode well for it.”

May said that any further extension to Article 50 should end as soon as the U.K. has secured a Brexit deal and that she wants the legislation implementing any agreement to be complete by May 22, to ensure the U.K. does not have to take part in European Parliament election; an outcome she fiercely opposes, but has not ruled out altogether.

The government is now working on the understanding that while the U.K. needs to notify of its intention to take part in the European election by April 11, it can reverse the decision at any time until May 21, the day before the poll begins.

Corbyn said he would be “very happy to meet the prime minister” and Downing Street officials indicated the talks would proceed “as soon as possible.” May will meet EU27 leaders in Brussels on WednRead More – Source

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