UK govt to resume cross-party Brexit talks

LONDON: The British government will resume talks with the main opposition Labour party next week on how to resolve the deadlock over Brexit, a senior minister said on Sunday.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s effective deputy, David Lidington, said they wanted to be able to “take stock” of any progress when parliament returns from its Easter break on April 23.
“What we have agreed is a programme of meetings next week on particular subjects with the ministers and shadow ministers concerned getting together,” he told the BBC.
They would discuss environmental standards and workers’ rights after Brexit as well as the future security relationship with the EU.
“Then we would hope to take stock of where we are as soon as parliament gets back after the Easter recess,” he said. “But I don’t think that this question can be allowed to drag out for much longer.” May was forced to ask fellow EU leaders this week to postpone Brexit for a second time, from April 12 to October 31.
She has been unable to persuade MPs to back the withdrawal terms she has struck with Brussels, but is also unwilling to take Britain out of the EU with no deal at all. She is still hoping Brexit can happen in time to avoid Britain taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23.
May met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on April 3 and there have been further lower-level talks since then over Labour’s demand for a close future relationship with the EU.
Lidington said there must be “compromise on both sides”, adding that if no agreement could be reached, they would put a series of Brexit options to parliament to decide.
Meanwhile, an Opinium poll published in the Observer newspaper showed the Conservatives at 29 percent, down 6 points from March 28 and 7 points behind Labour.
An analysis of polls since the original intended March 29 exit day, published in the Sunday Telegraph, showed the Conservatives would lose 59 parliamentary seats if an election were held.
“Much of this drop reflects disappointment among Leave voters — around a half of whom would prefer ‘no deal’ — at the government’s failure to deliver Brexit,” polling expert John Curtice wrote in the Sunday Telegraph The analysis showed Corbyn’s Labour Party would win the most seats but still fall short of an outright majority in the 650-seat parliament, with Scottish nationalists and the small centrist Liberal Democrats party also picking up seats.
With parliament on an 11-day break until April 23, Britons are wondering what happens next.
Steve Murrells, chief executive of retailer Co-op group, told the BBC the government had “kicked the can down the road” on Brexit, but that his firm would continue to plan for the worst-case scenario of leaving without a deal.
Despite being handed an extension of EU membership until October 31, May is hoping to pass a withdrawal agreement and lead Britain out of the bloc before May 23 to avoid taking part in elections for the European Parliament.
Eurosceptic Iain Duncan Smith, a former Conservative Party leader, said May should be ready to quit in June. He described the delay to Brexit as “political death” and urged May to avoid taking part in the European elections. — AFP/Reuters