Talks in Downing Street
MPs pass Brexit delay bill as May and Corbyn hold talks
Theresa May had not moved far enough, according to Jeremy Corbyn
MPs voted by a majority of one to force the Prime Minister to ask for a further extension to the Brexit process in a new bid to avoid Britain crashing out of Europe without a deal.
Unusually, the bill was passed in one day and will now need approval in the Lords become law, while the EU will need agree on the extension.
Labour’s Yvette Cooper led the move in the Commons which came after Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn agreed a “programme of work”.
After their meeting, Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn said their respective teams will hold further talks in an attempt to break the deadlock.
Mr Corbyn said Mrs May had not moved far enough in meeting his demands for a customs union and protection of environment, consumer and workers’ rights.
Speaking after meeting, Mr Corbyn said: “There hasn’t been as much change as I expected but we will have further discussions tomorrow to explore technical issues.
“I put forward the view from the Labour Party that we want to achieve a customs union with the EU, access to the Single Market and dynamic regulatory alignment, that is a guarantee of European regulations as a minimum on the environment, consumer and workers’ rights. I also raised the option of a public vote to prevent crashing out or leaving on a bad deal.”
A Downing Street spokesman said the meeting, which lasted an hour and 40 minutes, had been “constructive, with both sides showing flexibility and a commitment to bring the current Brexit uncertainty to a close.
“We have agreed a programme of work to ensure we deliver for the British people, protecting jobs and security.”
The two parties gave “a commitment to bring the current Brexit uncertainty to a close”. However, the extent of Mrs May’s problems within her own party were again exposed when two junior ministers quit – Nigel Adams and Chris Heaton-Harris. There was anger on the Conservative benches that compromise talks are even taking place, with Tory Brexiteers rounding on the Prime Minister for giving the “Marxist, antisemite” Mr Corbyn a role in deciding the terms of Brexit.
Lee Rowley reminded the Prime Minister that she said only last week that “the biggest threat to our standing in the world, to our defence, and to our economy” was the Labour leader. Caroline Johnson warned Mrs May she risked “letting down the country and ushering in a Marxist, anti-Semite led government” by signing off a deal with Mr Corbyn.
The divisions in her party have been a factor in Mrs May turning to the Labour leader to try and reach some sort of consensus among MPs. The UK has until 12 April to propose a plan to the EU – which must be accepted by the bloc – or it will leave without a deal on that date.
Mr Corbyn was also facing a backlash from his party. The Labour negotiating team includes Mr Corbyn’s spokesman Seumas Milne and shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury Rebecca Long-Bailey, both seen as opponents of a second EU referendum.
The two leaders also met Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP leader said she had “good” and “open” conversations with both, and while she believed Mr Corbyn would “drive a hard bargain”, she was “still not entirely clear” where the prime minister was willing to compromise.
Ms Sturgeon joined other opposition parties in demanding that any agreement between Labour and the Conservatives include a referendum on the terms of Brexit.