Labour Says May Not Offering Genuine Compromise: Brexit Update

Thomas Penny, Ian Wishart and Robert Hutton
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Labour Says May Not Offering Genuine Compromise: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) -- Theresa May asked the European Union to delay Brexit, potentially setting up a battle with other leaders ahead of next week’s summit. The prime minister wants the U.K. to be able to leave the bloc before European elections in May if she can get the divorce deal ratified in time. Her team is locked in compromise talks with the opposition Labour Party.

Key Developments:

May wrote to EU Council President Donald Tusk seeking a further Brexit delay to June 30 -- with an option to leave earlier if Parliament ratifies divorce dealMay also said government will prepare for European elections, but reiterates she doesn’t want U.K. to take partTusk is proposing to offer a one-year extension with the option of leaving the bloc earlier if a deal is approved, an EU official saidPound weakens against dollar as government-Labour detente chills

Labour Say May Not Offering Genuine Compromise (5 p.m.)

The talks between the government and the opposition Labour Party seem to have ended for the day without progress.

“We are disappointed that the government has not offered real change or compromise,” Labour said in a statement. “We urge the prime minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in Parliament and bring the country together.”

DUP Slams ‘Disorganized and Slapdash’ May (2:55 p.m.)

Democratic Unionist Party Leader Arlene Foster, whose MPs prop up Theresa May’s government, slammed the prime minister’s talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and said her request for an extension to Brexit was “unsatisfactory.”

“The United Kingdom fighting European elections almost three years after a clear majority voted to leave the EU sums up the disorganized and slapdash approach taken to negotiations by the prime minister,” Foster said in an email.

She accused May of being “foolish” for removing no-deal from Britain’s negotiating options and said the premier should use any delay to work to get a deal that satisfies Northern Irish unionists rather than "subcontracting the U.K.’s future to Jeremy Corbyn.”

Corbyn: Goal in Brexit Talks to Protect Rights (2:15 p.m.)

Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn told Sky News his goal in Brexit talks with Theresa May is to “make sure we don’t become some kind of deregulated tax haven off the coast of Europe, or open ourselves up to unregulated imports of agricultural products from the U.S. or anywhere else.”

The Labour leader, who said he wants to see environmental and workers protections built up, said his party is ready to fight European elections if delays to Brexit mean they’re required.

“We don’t think the European elections are an issue one way or the other,” Corbyn said during a visit to south Wales, where his party won a by-election Thursday. “We’ll contest them on the party’s policy of opposing austerity.”

Varadkar Says Longer Extension Makes More Sense (1:30 p.m.)

A longer Brexit delay might make more sense than a series of short term extensions, Irish Prime Minster Leo Varadkar said Friday.

The EU wants to avoid a “rolling cliff edge” of a series of short term extensions, he said in comments broadcast by RTE Radio. Asked about alternatives including EU Council President Donald Tusk’s proposal of a one-year extension with the option of the U.K. leaving the bloc earlier if a deal is approved, Varadkar said these things are all possible, and would be discussed at the meeting of the European Council next week.

Farage: Brexit Party Will Stand in EU Vote (12:20 p.m.)

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage told Sky News he plans to lead his new Brexit Party into the European parliament elections in May, “as it now looks certain they will happen.”

“I thought we’d won the Brexit battle, but I’m not going to -- after 25 years of endeavor -- watch British politicians roll us over,” Farage said. “No, this is the fight back, and they’re going to be very surprised by what they get.”

Farage, perhaps Britain’s most famous anti-EU campaigner, has been a member of the European parliament since 1999.

EU Not Concerned by Rees-Mogg Comments (12 p.m.)

Responding to a question about Rees-Mogg’s assertion that the U.K. should use a long Brexit delay to disrupt EU business (see 10:15 a.m.), a European Commission spokesman said he isn’t concerned.

“This gentleman is not our interlocutor,” Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels. “The principle of sincere cooperation applies, as Prime Minister May herself makes clear in her letter.”

Schinas also said only leaders could make the final decision on a Brexit extension, appearing to distance himself from EU President Donald Tusk’s proposal that there should be a delay of a year.

May Hasn’t Set Deadline for Talks With Labour (11:30 a.m.)

Theresa May hasn’t set a deadline for talks with Labour to conclude, and there’s also no date set for Brexit alternatives to be put to Parliament, her spokesman, James Slack, told reporters in London on Friday.

Asked when she would put Brexit plan B options to Parliament -- as she promised she would do if the outreach to Labour fails -- Slack said: “It wasn’t something she said would be done in parallel” with the Labour discussions, adding that the government will have to present a motion in Parliament the day before any voting.

“The crucial thing is being able to agree a timetable with the opposition which will enable ratification by May 22,” Slack said. Talks with Labour are an “ongoing process,” he said.

Jenkin: Extension Better Than May’s Brexit Deal (10:30 a.m.)

Bernard Jenkin, a leading voice among Euroskeptic MPs in May’s Conservative Party, said he would prefer an extension to the alternative of being railroaded into accepting the prime minister’s divorce deal with the EU.

“If we have an extension, we are still members and we can leave,” he told BBC Radio 4 on Friday, adding that May’s agreement would leave the U.K. too closely tied to the bloc. “We’d be better staying in a year longer if necessary.”

Rees-Mogg: Use Long Extension to Disrupt EU (10:15 a.m.)

Jacob Rees-Mogg, chairman of the European Research Group of pro-Brexit Tory MPs, said a long extension should be used to disrupt the bloc.

“If a long extension leaves us stuck in the EU, we should be as difficult as possible,” Rees-Mogg said on Twitter. “We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block Mr Macron’s integrationist schemes.’’

But how much disruption the U.K. would be able to cause is likely to be limited by a “gentleman’s agreement” as part of any extension: That London will not participate in any of the discussions Rees-Mogg referred to. The budget is also not due to be voted on for at least another year.

May Requests Brexit Delay to June 30 (9 a.m.)

Theresa May wrote to EU Council President Donald Tusk to request a delay to Brexit until June 30 -- with an option to leave earlier if she can get a deal through the House of Commons.

The prime minister, who wants to avoid holding European elections next month, cited ongoing talks with opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn as a reason for further delay.

“It is frustrating that we have not yet brought this process to a successful and orderly conclusion,” May wrote. “The U.K. government remains strongly committed to doing so.”

May Said to Write to Tusk on Friday Seeking Delay (8:40 a.m.)

Theresa May will write to EU Council President Donald Tusk on Friday to request a further delay to Brexit, a U.K. official said on condition of anonymity, without giving further details. The plan was earlier reported by the Press Association.

Tusk Said to Favor Flexible One-Year Extension (8:30 a.m.)

European Council President Donald Tusk favors giving the U.K. a one-year extension to the Brexit process with an exit clause, a EU official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions are private. The clause would allow the U.K. to leave if it ratifies the withdrawal agreement before the year is up.

The idea, which has already been floated on both sides, would mean the U.K. has until May 22 to get a deal done to avoid holding the European poll.

Tusk, who chairs summits of EU leaders, still needs their unanimous support before his proposal becomes firm offer. A second EU official there are different views among members states over the length of extension the bloc should offer.

Earlier:

May and Corbyn Battle With Parties on New Brexit ReferendumBrexit Bulletin: Will the U.K. Ever Leave the European Union?Despite May’s Swerve, the Best Brexit Is No Brexit: Editorial

--With assistance from Jessica Shankleman.

To contact the reporters on this story: Thomas Penny in London at tpenny@bloomberg.net;Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.net;Robert Hutton in London at rhutton1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Emma Ross-Thomas at erossthomas@bloomberg.net, Stuart Biggs

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