Theresa May, U.K. prime minister, departs number 10 Downing Street to attend a weekly questions and answers session in Parliament in London, U.K. (Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg)

Corbyn-May Talks Constructive But Inconclusive: Brexit Update

(Bloomberg) --

Parliament is about to vote on a bill that seeks to block a no-deal exit, and it looks set to be a close fight. Earlier, Theresa May met Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to try to thrash out a Brexit compromise, with both sides describing talks as “constructive.”

Here’s our main story on the cross-party talks. We will live blog the votes from 10 p.m.

Key Developments:

What Are the Amendments to the No-Deal Bill? (9 p.m.)

As Yvette Cooper’s bill to block a no-deal Brexit rushes through its parliamentary stages, the list of amendments that have been selected for voting at 10 p.m. has now been released.

There are 11 in total, which along with votes on each of the two clauses of the bill and a “third reading” vote means there will be 14 votes in total. The good news is that it’s unlikely they’ll actually have a full vote on most of them. Once it’s clear where the majority is in the chamber, many of the votes should go uncontested.

The interesting ones are:

  • Amendment 20 - an attempt by Tory George Eustice to stop the government seeking an extension beyond June 30. The first test of Brexiteer strength.
  • Amendment 22 - the government tries to give itself freedom to seek a different extension from that ordered by Parliament.
  • Amendment 6 - a wrecking amendment from veteran EU opponent Bill Cash, that would require regional assemblies -- including Northern Ireland’s, which is suspended -- to approve the bill.

Bill to Block No-Deal Moves Forward (7:20 p.m.)

Parliament voted for a bill that aims to block a no-deal Brexit to move forward to the next phase and a final vote.

The vote was tight: 315-310. A final vote is expected after 10 p.m.



Corbyn Calls May Talks Inconclusive (6:55 p.m.)

Jeremy Corbyn told broadcasters that his discussions with May were “useful but inconclusive,” and that they’ll meet again on Thursday morning for more talks to explore “technical issues.”

“There hasn’t been as much change as I expected,” Corbyn said. “There was no deal offered and there’s no deal being offered by us either. We just discussed where we’re at and she reiterated where she is at at the present time and so red lines in the future didn’t come up.”

Corbyn said he’d put forward Labour’s view that the U.K. should be in a customs union with the EU after Brexit, and with “dynamic regulatory alignment” on the environment, and on consumer and employment rights. Above all, he warned against a no-deal departure.

“The dangers of crashing out with no deal are very, very serious. Very serious indeed and they have to be avoided,” he said.

Hoare: Tories Not Plotting Move Against May (6:45 p.m.)

Conservative members of parliament are holding their weekly meeting in the House of Commons. Trade Secretary Liam Fox is addressing them. It’s private, but one of them, Simon Hoare, has just come out and played down any ideas that they might move against May in protest at her talks with Corbyn. Tory party rules forbid it for 12 months after last year’s confidence motion, he said, and that settled the matter.

May, Corbyn Teams Plan Intensive Talks Thursday (6:40 p.m.)

Theresa May and opposition Labour Party Leader Jeremy Corbyn are appointing teams of negotiators to take forward urgent work, according to an official. The two sides will meet again on Wednesday to plan a program of work, and negotiating teams will hold intensive discussions all day on Thursday, the official said. The timetable reflects the urgent need to reach an agreement on the way forward.

May Agrees Talks Were Constructive (6:12 p.m.)

May’s spokesman agreed that talks were constructive and would continue.

“Today’s talks were constructive, with both sides showing flexibility and a commitment to bring the current Brexit uncertainty to a close," according to a statement. "We have agreed a program of work to ensure we deliver for the British people, protecting jobs and security.”

Labour wants to maintain closer ties to the bloc than May’s deal sets out, including remaining in a customs union.

Labour Welcomes Constructive Brexit Talks (6 p.m.)

Labour says discussions with May aimed at finding a consensus route out of the impasse were constructive.

"We have had constructive exploratory discussions about how to break the Brexit deadlock,” party says in statement. “We have agreed a program of work between our teams to explore the scope for agreement.”

Representatives of the two sides will meet for further talks tonight with technical discussions scheduled for Thursday.

Parliament Allows Debate on Bill to Block No-Deal (5:55 p.m.)

Parliament has voted -- by a margin of one -- to allow an extraordinary debate on a bill that seeks to block a no-deal Brexit. It’s a bid by rank-and-file lawmakers to legislate so that the government can’t take the U.K. out of the bloc without a deal.

Voting is expected from 10 p.m.

What Now?

Parliament has voted against giving itself more time to vote on alternatives to May’s Brexit plan. The result comes as May and Corbyn are in talks to find their own alternative -- and that might explain the lack of support for the amendment. (It was a tie, broken by the speaker.)

May has said that if she fails to come up with an agreement with Corbyn then she will put some alternatives to parliament for a round of voting similar to the ones organized by rank-and-file lawmakers. That could still happen on Monday.

So what’s Parliament up to now? They are expected to vote tonight on a bill that aims to prevent a no-deal exit.

Parliament Rejects Amendment for More Votes (5:25 p.m.)

Parliament has rejected an amendment that would have set aside more time on Monday for rank-and-file lawmakers to take charge of parliamentary time to hold a series of votes on Brexit alternatives.

The result was a tie, and after a bit of commotion and delay in the House of Commons, the speaker cast the tie-breaker vote.

Corbyn Says Talks Went Very Well (5 p.m.)

Corbyn tells the Mirror newspaper talks went "very well," and he expects to sit down with May again soon.

Merkel: Brexit Issue of War and Peace for Ireland (4:25 p.m.)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Ireland is the focal point for EU’s efforts to ensure an orderly Brexit, pointing out that the issue of a hard border is about more that just protecting the integrity of the EU’s single market.

“We often say Europe is a question of war and peace, and here you can basically see that it is a question of violence and non-violence,” she told reporters in the Thuringian village of Neudietendorf on Wednesday. “I will therefore deal very intensely with the situation at the border and with the question, how one can find solutions which can prevent a hard Brexit.”

Merkel is scheduled to meet Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar on Thursday.

Brexit Minister Quits Over Delay (4:15 p.m.)

The government lost its second minister of the day, as Chris Heaton-Harris quit as junior Brexit minister over May’s plan to delay the U.K.’s exit further. In a letter posted on Twitter, he said his job of preparing Britain for a no-deal Brexit was rendered “irrelevant’’ by the premier’s desire to leave with a deal.

“Every time we seek an extension to this process we diminish faith in our political system and the good people, from all political parties, who serve within it,” Heaton Harris wrote to May.

Heaton Harris’s resignation follows that of Wales Minister Nigel Adams earlier (See 10 a.m.). It also adds to high turnover at the Brexit Department, which is on its third secretary of state in under three years and has also had high turnover among junior ministerial ranks.

Smaller Parties Call for Second Referendum (4.10 p.m)

A group of smaller parties will put forward an amendment to Labour MP Yvette Cooper’s bill (see 3 p.m.) on extending Brexit. The proposal seeks to secure a public vote on any deal Parliament approves.

“There is compromise to be made here. A lot of us have said we will not stand in the way of the prime minister’s deal so long as it is put to a confirmatory vote,” said Chuka Ummuna, spokesman for Change UK, a new independent party. The others parties were the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

Labour’s Long-Bailey Calls for Compromise (3:30 p.m.)

Labour’s Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, who the party said would join leader Jeremy Corbyn in talks with Theresa May, called for politicians on all sides to “shed our political colors” and work in the national interest to secure a compromise on Brexit.

“It’s very difficult; politicians operate on a factional basis,’’ she told BBC Radio on Wednesday. “It’s going to be difficult, not just for Labour MPs but also for Conservative MPs and members of other opposition parties to be able to work together to find a compromise, but we’re at that critical stage now.”

Her remarks show there’s an acknowledgment in the opposition that it isn’t only the prime minister who’ll have to shift her position. She said all politicians, especially May, need to realize that “red lines need to be rubbed.’’

“We’re not being restrictive or prescriptive at this stage,’’ Long-Bailey said. “We’ll be flexible, we’ll look at compromises and we’ll look at all of the various options that we think the prime minister can work towards.’’

Government to Oppose Cooper-Letwin Bill (3 p.m.)

Cabinet Minister Andrea Leadsom told lawmakers -- unsurprisingly -- that the government will oppose the attempt by Labour’s Yvette Cooper and the Tory Oliver Letwin to push emergency legislation through the House of Commons on Wednesday requiring the prime minister to seek a Brexit delay.

“It seems inconceivable that Parliament has only seen the bill under consideration today for the first time yesterday, and we will have just a few hours this evening to debate this bill,” Leadsom said.

If Cooper and Letwin succeed in getting their planned program for the day approved, the government has also said it will oppose the bill itself and whip Conservative lawmakers to vote against it. The bill sparked the ire of Tory Brexiteers, including Nadine Dorries, Bill Cash and Bernard Jenkin.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, leader of the pro-Brexit European Research Group, warned that governments with large majorities could use any precedent set today to steamroller their own bills through Parliament.

U.K. Needs Clear Plan for Delay, Varadkar Says (2:45 p.m.)

Any extension to Article 50 will depend on what the U.K. wants, Irish PM Leo Varadkar said in Parliament in Dublin. While the European Council is open to an extension, “we need a clear plan” from the U.K., he said.

On avoiding a hard border in a no-deal divorce, Varadkar said it will be “really difficult” to reconcile Ireland’s requirements under the Northern Ireland peace agreement with its obligations as part of the Single Market.

There is “growing frustration” among a majority of EU countries not adversely impacted by Brexit that the issue is taking focus away from other EU issues, something that is “worrying” for Ireland, he said.

Letwin: Lords Ready to Pass No-Deal Law (2:25 p.m.)

Oliver Letwin, who’s leading parliament’s efforts to block a no-deal exit, says the House of Lords is ready to quickly deal with his bill so it can become law.

“Rest assured that those of us promoting this course of action have taken the trouble to notify members of the House of Lords who are very well able to carry it forward,” Letwin said. “We’re anticipating in all probability it will pass through the House of Lords very rapidly.”

May Sets Out Goals for Corbyn Talks (12:30 p.m.)

May used her weekly question and answer session with MPs to set out her priorities for cross-party talks with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn scheduled for 2:30 p.m. She said she wants to deliver an arrangement that see the U.K. leaving with a deal, protecting jobs, ending free movement and respecting the withdrawal agreement.

The anger from lawmakers on her side was palpable as they attacked her talks with Corbyn, denouncing the Labour leader as a Marxist, and antisemite and unfit for government.

Corbyn chose to lead on questions about poverty so leaving the way clear for talks on Brexit this afternoon.

Barclay Says Not Clear If Aiming to Change Deal (11:12 a.m.)

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay says it’s not clear if talks with Corbyn will result in an attempt to change the political declaration on future ties that forms part of the Brexit deal. That’s still to be discussed.

The EU has said it would be willing to move quickly to change the political declaration if needed, he added.

Austria’s Kurz Says ‘Chaos Hasn’t Changed’ (10:40 a.m.)

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in Vienna he sees no reason now for a further Brexit extension given the “chaos in the U.K. hasn’t changed.” Kurz said the EU is “in the final days” to avoid a hard Brexit, and that the onus is on Britain to find a solution. Another delay is possible if the House of Commons approves the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, he said.

Minister Resigns Over May’s Handling of Brexit (10 a.m.)

Minister for Wales and government whip Nigel Adams said on Twitter he has resigned in response to the decisions made at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. In his letter to May, Adams said the government is failing to deliver the “Brexit people voted for” and increasing the risk of the “calamity of a Corbyn government.”

Barclay: May Not Giving Labour ‘Blank Check’ (Earlier)

Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay told BBC Radio 4 that while the government is not setting preconditions for Brexit talks with the opposition Labour Party, it’s also not handing over a “blank check” to leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He said the talks will be an opportunity to see if Labour stands by its manifesto on Brexit, and the aim is to find common ground on future ties to the EU given that Corbyn’s party has said it doesn’t oppose the Withdrawal Agreement.

Barclay also said he still regards a customs union with the EU as “highly undesirable,” but said Parliament numbers mean the government has no choice but to seek a compromise.

Earlier:

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