May: I had to approach Labour over Brexit

Composite image featuring Theresa May and Jeremy CorbynImage copyright

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Mrs May has been criticised by some Conservatives for reaching out to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Prime Minister Theresa May has insisted she had to reach out to Labour in a bid to deliver Brexit or risk letting it “slip through our fingers”.

In a statement on Saturday night, Mrs May said there was a “stark choice” of either leaving the European Union with a deal or not leaving at all.

Some Conservatives have criticised her for seeking Labour’s help after MPs rejected her Brexit plan three times.

Three days of talks between the parties ended without agreement on Friday.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he was “waiting to see the red lines move” and had not “noticed any great change in the government’s position”.

In the statement, Mrs May said that after doing “everything in my power” to persuade her own party – and their backers in Northern Ireland’s DUP – to approve the deal she agreed with the EU last year, she “had to take a new approach”.

“We have no choice but to reach out across the House of Commons,” the prime minister said.

“The referendum was not fought along party lines and people I speak to on the doorstep tell me they expect their politicians to work together when the national interest demands it.”

Getting a majority of MPs to back a Brexit deal is the only way for the UK to leave the EU, Mrs May said.

“The longer this takes, the greater the risk of the UK never leaving at all.

“It would mean letting the Brexit the British people voted for slip through our fingers. I will not stand for that.”

The UK is due to leave the EU on 12 April and, as yet, no withdrawal deal has been approved by the House of Commons.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Labour had engaged in talks “in good faith” and wanted them to continue.

However, she said there was concern the government has made “no movement” on her party’s demand for changes to the political declaration – the section of Mrs May’s Brexit deal which outlines the basis for future UK-EU relations.

The document declares mutual ambitions in areas such as trade, regulations, security and fishing rights – but does not legally commit either party.

Downing Street has indicated it was “prepared to pursue changes” in order to secure a deal, and Chancellor Philip Hammond said on Saturday that he was “optimistic” the talks could reach “some form of agreement”.

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