Britain’s tumultuous divorce from the European Union was again in disarray yesterday after the opposition Labour Party declared last-ditch talks dead due to Prime Minister Theresa May’s crumbling government.
Nearly three years after the United Kingdom voted 52% to 48% in a referendum to leave the EU, it remains unclear how, when or even if it will leave the European club it joined in 1973. The current deadline to leave is October 31.
Brexit talks between May’s Conservative Party and Labour collapsed hours after May agreed on Thursday to set out in early June a timetable for her departure.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to May yesterday informing her that the Brexit talks, which began on April 3, had “gone as far as they can” due to the instability of her government and its refusal to fundamentally shift its position.
“We have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us,” Corbyn, a socialist who voted against joining the predecessor of the EU in 1975, wrote to May.
“Even more crucially, the increasing weakness and instability of your government means there cannot be confidence in securing whatever might be agreed between us,” Corbyn said.
He said Labour would oppose May’s deal when it returns to parliament early next month. He later told reporters there was no chance of getting even part of a Brexit deal ratified by the end of July.
The divorce deal, which May agreed last year with the EU, has been rejected three times by parliament. May will put the Withdrawal Agreement Bill, legislation required to enact the exit deal, to a vote in parliament in early June.
A source in May’s office said the bill would not be the same thing parliament had rejected and will contain new features to reflect some lawmakers’ concerns.
Looking uncomfortable as she delivered a televised message to voters ahead of the European Parliament elections, May suggested Labour’s internal divisions over a second referendum were to blame for the failure of the talks.
The pound sank to $1.275, its lowest level since mid-January.
May’s hands have been tied, knowing that to make concessions to Labour would lead to fury in her divided party. Labour has feared any compromises on issues such as workers’ rights would be torn up by May’s successor.