Theresa May’s divided Cabinet has agreed to let Brexit compromise talks with Labour continue, despite fundamental disagreements.
After a marathon two hour Cabinet meeting yesterday, ministers move to continue the cross-party efforts but stressed it was “imperative” for a Brexit deal to get through Parliament by the summer recess.
With Theresa May’s future linked to the passage of a Brexit deal, getting legislation through the Commons and Lords by the summer break could also pave the way for her departure from Number 10.
Mrs May’s official spokesman said: “Ministers involved in the negotiations set out details of the compromises which the government was prepared to consider in order to secure an agreement that would allow the UK to leave the EU with a deal as soon as possible.
“Cabinet agreed to continue discussions with Labour to see what was possible.
“However, it was agreed that it was imperative to bring forward the Withdrawal Agreement Bill in time for it to receive royal assent by the summer parliamentary recess.”
No date has been set for that summer recess, but Parliament usually rises near the end of July.
Asked if getting the deal through would also make that Mrs May’s exit date, the spokesman said: “What she wants to do is get a deal through by the summer recess.
“She has at the same time said she would step aside once she has completed phase one, but the conversation at Cabinet wasn’t about that.”
Mrs May and her effective deputy David Lidington – who has been leading the negotiations with Labour – led the Cabinet discussions, but other ministers involved in the talks contributed.
The conversations with Labour had been “difficult”, the spokesman said, but ministers were “determined to find a way through” the Brexit impasse.
Shadow chancellor John McDonnell, speaking at a Wall Street Journal event yesterday, said it was becoming hard to see how Labour could “march our troops up the hill” when Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab were prepared to overturn any cross-party deal in what he said would be a “cataclysmic act of bad faith”.
Asked whether the talks were going anywhere, he said: “Today hasn’t helped. The customs union is absolutely key to us. We are not near what we want.”