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May, Labour Leader Meet on Brexit Deadlock

(AFP) British Prime Minister Theresa May was to meet opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Tuesday for talks on breaking the deadlock over Brexit, as the government said it wanted its EU divorce deal approved by July.

For the past six weeks, ministers and their Labour counterparts have been discussing how parliament might accept the agreement May struck with the European Union last year.

Progress has been painfully slow, and there are growing calls in May’s Conservative party to abandon the process.

But her ministers discussed at a cabinet meeting on Tuesday “the compromises which the government was prepared to consider” and agreed to keep talking, May’s spokesman said.

They also said it was “imperative” that any exit plan be approved by parliament before MPs go on their summer holiday, which normally begins at the end of July.

“What she (May) is working to do is to get a deal passed as soon as possible,” the spokesman said.

The prime minister struck a deal on Britain’s exit terms with the European Union in November, but it has been rejected by MPs three times.

She turned to Labour last month in the hope of finding a way through, but the party is insisting on a close trading relationship with the EU that many Conservative MPs reject.

After twice delaying Brexit, Britain is reluctantly taking part in European Parliament elections on May 23, almost three years after the referendum vote to leave the bloc.

The government had hoped to get the London parliament’s agreement for the divorce deal in the coming weeks so British MEPs would never have to take their seats. 

But the goal outlined on Tuesday, of getting the bill to ratify the treaty passed by July, suggests they will have to. The new European Parliament convenes on July 2.

“The factual position is if MEPs are elected and (the British) parliament has not approved a withdrawal agreement bill which has achieved royal assent by June 30, they will take their seats,” May’s spokesman said.

Cabinet also discussed on Tuesday what might happen if the talks fail, including a “Plan B” to hold a series of votes in parliament on possible Brexit options, May’s spokesman said.

The government could introduce legislation implementing the divorce deal as soon as next week if the cross-party talks go well, a source said, but no votes are expected until June.

ar/dt/cw

© Agence France-Presse

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