Brexit breakdown: June to be end of May

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With the PM counting down the days to her departure, Labour has withdrawn from talks, and Brexit chaos continues.

 

Talks between Prime Minister Theresa May and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn have collapsed, officials revealed on Friday.

 

Six weeks of negotiations had aimed to unlock the Brexit impasse which has crippled British politics and led to financial uncertainty in European and global markets.

 

While some compromise had been possible, “we have been unable to bridge important policy gaps between us”, Labour leader Corbyn wrote to May in a letter later posted on Twitter.

 

“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 wrote.

 

Theresa May, set to make a now-doomed fourth and final effort to win parliamentary approval for her Brexit deal, has been laying out potential timeframes for her resignation.

 

She had previously told vocal opponents within her own party that she would leave office if the Withdrawal Agreement her administration had reached with the European Union were agreed by the House of Commons. Such a step would complete the first stage of Britain’s divorce from the

EU and set it on the path she had laid out.

 

But discontent on Conservative backbenches forced May on Thursday to agree to set out her departure timetable in early June.

 

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay blamed Labour for the breakdown of talks, saying the Conservative government had been willing to make concessions. “There has been movement in terms of workers’ rights, there has been movement in terms of commitments on environmental standards,” he

said during a visit to the Irish border.

 

But with the government in disarray, the issue for Labour was that any new administration would not feel obliged to stick to any agreements reached during talks with May.

 

“Cabinet ministers are competing to succeed you, the position of the government has become ever more unstable and its authority eroded,” Corbyn wrote to May on Friday. “Not infrequently, proposals by your negotiating team have been publicly contradicted by statements from other

members of the Cabinet.”

 

Competition to replace Theresa May at this early stage ranges form the centre-right Jeremy Hunt to the hard-right Jacob Rees-Mogg. Yet while replacing the prime minister may ease anger among Conservative activists, the next administration will likely face the same challenges.

 

“Theresa May won’t look quite so hopeless once whoever takes over confronts the same Parliamentary arithmetic, EU realities and sour national mood,” tweeted Rupert Harrison, a former chair of the UK Council of Economic Advisers.

 

“The Brexiteer candidates (ie Boris [Johnson] and Dominic Raab) in particular should be very careful what they say during the campaign – temptation clearly to talk tough, but probably odds on that their first action will have to be requestion another extension from the EU.”

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