First British minister resigns after PM seeks talks with Corbyn

Dwayne Harmon
April 8, 2019

A Tory cabinet minister has become the first to quit over Theresa May's move to reach out to the main opposition party and hold talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to find a solution to the Brexit crisis.

After her European Union withdrawal deal was rejected three times by lawmakers, with parliament and her Conservative Party hopelessly divided over Brexit, May said on Tuesday she would talk to Corbyn in a bid to overcome what is now a national crisis.

The House of Commons has also failed to find a majority for any alternative plan in two days of voting on multiple options.

He said it was important "we have absolute clarity that as soon as we've done the deal, we are able to bring that extension to an end", adding that "it's less about the nominal time" of the extension and more about how easily Britain can halt it and exit the EU.

"There hasn't been as much change as I expected, " he said.

Following the defeat of the government's plan and a range of lawmaker-written alternatives, May said Britain would need a further delay to its European Union departure, now scheduled for April 12.

But it was her next announcement that appears to have left her own Tory MPs fuming, effectively handing a some of the power around Brexit to the opposition leader.

The Prime Minister added that her government would "abide by the decision" of UK MPs, and expressed hope that a Withdrawal Bill could be passed before 22 May so that the UK could leave the bloc without needing to take part in May's European Parliamentary Elections.

May has always ruled that out, saying it would limit Britain's ability to forge an independent trade policy.

"I'm very happy to meet the prime minister", Corbyn said in response to May's offer.

Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay said the government would accept a soft Brexit if lawmakers voted for it.

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The Prime Minister added a bill to pave the way for the departure form the EU would have to be in place by May 22 to ensure the United Kingdom does not have to take part in European Parliament elections the following day.

The Brexit-backers condemned May's shift.

In a statement following the meeting, Mr. Corbyn said that he had put the party's perspective to the Prime Minister, in particular its push for a customs union with the EU, as well as well as strong guarantees around workers and consumer rights and environmental protections in line with E.U. standards. That is not the Brexit my constituents were promised and it is contrary to the pledge we made in our manifesto.

Meanwhile, pro-EU lawmakers are not banking on talks between May and Corbyn succeeding.

The dire data follows an equally poor showing from Britain's construction sector, which recorded its first back-to-back contraction since 2016 in March as Brexit anxiety continues to weigh on firms as they delay building projects.

A bill being debated Wednesday would compel May to seek to extend the Brexit process beyond April 12 in order to prevent a no-deal departure.

Meawnhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said that if Britain's politicians could not agree on a way forward, "they will de facto have chosen for themselves to leave without a deal".

"Let's keep our fingers crossed for Theresa May in her efforts", he said in Vienna.

In an illustration of politicians' deadlock over Britain's exit from the European Union, Wednesday's vote ended in a 310-310 draw.

"The trouble is that it is always a draw in the House of Commons", he said.

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