Brexit Brief: Cross-party talks test Brexit ideas

The U.K. government and the Labour Party are “testing out” each other’s ideas in an attempt to dissolve the Brexit deadlock, the Prime Minister’s deputy David Lidington said.

Lidington, who is leading compromise talks with Labour, told the BBC on Sunday that the two parties had a “fair bit in common” over the future customs objective. However, he acknowledged compromise was needed, with Labour adamant the U.K. should remain in the customs union while the Conservatives insistent on the U.K. leaving.

Lidington said over the next 10 days the two sides would “take stock” of the ideas and although there are no deadlines in place promised the process would not drag on.

Energy minister Claire Perry suggested the U.K. should aim to leave the EU before the European Parliament elections in late May.

She told Sky News: “If we can pass the withdrawal agreement in the next three weeks then we will be out and we won’t be fighting the European elections”

Talks between the two parties are set to continue over the Easter parliamentary recess in the hope of finding a Brexit agreement that will be approved by MPs.

Lidington warned the next prime minister, who could be voted in over the summer if a leadership contest is initiated, would not be able to revert Theresa May’s Brexit deal if they came into power.

He said “In the current parliament, whether or not you have a new leader, the numbers in the House of Commons aren’t going to change.”

The European Union has insisted the terms of the U.K.’s withdrawal agreement, rejected three times by MPs, cannot be renegotiated. However, there is scope to strengthen the political declaration, a document setting out the U.K.’s future relations with the EU, ahead of the new Brexit deadline of 31 October.

Over the weekend, senior Tory MPs launched a campaign against potential candidate Boris Johnson, warning that handing over power to a hard Brexiteer would be electoral “suicide”.

Writing in The Sunday Times, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, the former party chairman who is backing Jeremy Hunt to succeed Theresa May said: “Defining ourselves as the Brexit party, pursuing the hardest form of Brexit with a parliament that will not deliver it, is a recipe for paralysis in government and suicide with the electorate. We are and must remain the Conservative Party, not the Vote Leave party.”

Meanwhile, British businesses are the most downbeat they have been about Brexit since the referendum in 2016, according to a survey from accountancy group Deloitte, with eight out of 10 finance leaders concerned about the long-term economic impact of Brexit.

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