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Brexit: Cross-party cooperation

As no agreement has been reached after three votes on the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal last week, this week a second round of indicatives votes also resulted in no agreement. A proposal to pursue a customs union with the EU lost only by just three votes. Following a lengthy Cabinet meeting in an attempt to break the impasse, Theresa May indicated that she would meet with leader of the opposition Jeremy Corbyn on Wednesday 3 April, as it seems unlikely that May’s deal will reach a majority before 12 April. May’s objective is to find a compromise deal with Labour that could be put to a vote in the House of Commons and then be presented to the EU27 at the summit next week.  

Her own party has already accused May of betrayal, as Corbyn has made clear he wants the UK to be part of a customs union with the EU and he wants to prioritize workers’ rights. Boris Johnson blamed May of “entrusting the final handling of Brexit to Labour”. However, the pressure on Labour is huge, as they are now likely to share the blame if Brexit goes wrong.  

In BrusselsMichel Barnier, EU Brexit negotiator, said that a no-deal Brexit is at this moment “very likely”. However, EU Council President Donald Tusk calls on everybody to show “patience” and Brexit Coordinator in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, said cross-party talks are “better late than never”. President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker used very strong language and stated today (3 April) in the European Parliament: “If the House of Commons does not adopt a stance by that date, no extension, no short-term extension will be possible” 

Next steps? 

The aim is for May and Corbyn to make an announcement on a possible compromise deal before the end of the week. Given nothing in Brexit happens without a sprinkle of drama, one should not hold one’s breath. However, this cross-party cooperation should be a last chance to come with an alternative Brexit deal before 12 April. Two days before this date the EU27 leaders will gather for a new summit to discuss the latest Brexit developments and a possible new extension, but as stated before the President of the European Commission made it very clear that the House of Commons have to adopt a clear stance.