Cross-party Brexit talks resume with Tory leadership challenge as a backdrop

Negotiations between the Labour and Conservative Parties on a Brexit compromise resume on 7 May following the May Day break. In addition, Prime Minister Theresa May will meet backbench representatives who are reportedly keen to know when she will step down.

According to newspaper reports within the United Kingdom, negotiations between the two main political parties in Britain are continuing despite the expectation that most Tory Members of Parliament will not support a customs union of any sort or any deal with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Conversely, Labour supporters, along with many parliamentarians will not back a deal with the Tories unless it is accompanied by a confirmatory referendum, an idea that has not had sufficient support in Parliament so far. However, there are signs that a number of politicians from both sides of Parliament are pivoting towards a second vote on Brexit.

Labour negotiators believe that a way out of the impasse in the country is to agree to a permanent customs union with the European Union (EU). This would have several advantages in that Britain would remain in regulatory alignment with the EU. That would result in no “hard borders.” However, there will be no freedom for the British Government to negotiate its own free trade agreements; it would be a silent partner that would accept deals made by the EU.

According to The Sunday Times, the Prime Minister is expected to offer a temporary customs union that will be secured until the next election. However, there can be no guarantee beyond that date. Labour officials are skeptical that May can offer such a deal with pressure on her increasing substantially following catastrophic losses in recent local elections. The Conservative Party lost more than 1,300 councillors in those elections. As a result, Labour members fear any deal with May’s Government will be rejected by the next Conservative Party leader.

That fear is compounded by the growing realization that May could be forced out of office sooner rather than later, with European elections (set for 22 May) also expected to see massive losses for the Tories. In addition, local Conservative associations have called for an extraordinary general meeting, to be held on 15 June, which is expected to see a non-binding vote of no confidence in May. These events could pile irresistible pressure on May, and the significance of these moves have not been lost on the Labour leadership.

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Nick Savvides, Staff Writer

Nick came to FreightWaves in December 2018 from Fairplay, a shipping market publication. He covers the shipping, freight and logistics industry in Europe. Since starting his career as a journalist in 1990, Nick has worked for a number of significant freight publications abroad, including International Freighting Weekly, the online news service for Containerisation International, ICIS, the chemical industry reporting service, as well as Seatrade in Greece. Nick also worked as a freelance journalist writing for Lloyd’s List, The Observer, The Express and The European newspapers among others before joining Seatrade Newsweek in Athens.

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