Talks between Britain’s two big political parties resume Monday after Prime Minister Theresa May issued a stark warning that the Brexit people voted for could “slip through our fingers”.
The coming days will be among the most crucial since Britain voted almost three years ago to end its membership of the European Union (EU).
May is hoping that within the next 48 hours a breakthrough will be made in talks between her Conservative Party and the Labour Party led by main opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn.
On Wednesday, May heads to Brussels to meet leaders of the other 27 EU member states in the hope of winning a second delay to Britain’s departure date.
Britain is currently scheduled to leave the EU on Friday unless a further extension is agreed.
In a weekend message, May said: “Because Parliament has made clear it will stop the UK leaving without a deal, we now have a stark choice: leave the European Union with a deal or do not leave at all.
My answer to that is clear: we must deliver Brexit and to do so we must agree a deal.”
May said there are areas on Brexit where the two main parties agree, both want to end free movement, both want to leave with a good deal, and both want to protect jobs.
But she warned: “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.”
Her fears were echoed Sunday by Andrea Leadsom, Leader of the House of Commons.
In a Sunday television interview, Leadsom said the Conservative Party was having to listen “through gritted teeth” to what the Labour Party is saying.
Leadsom also said a second referendum would be an ultimate betrayal of what people voted for in 2016, and would be seen as an attempt by Remainers to re-run the original vote. She also said she would never vote to revoke Article 50, the measure that signaled Britain’s intention to leave the EU.
Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Leadsom said: “It’s time to confront the grim truth; the vision we had of Brexit is fading away, and we are running out of time to save it.”
Leadsom said finding a way to leave with a deal remained frustratingly deadlocked.
Labour’s Rebecca Long Bailey, who has taken part in the bi-lateral discussions on Brexit between the Conservatives and Labour, said talks over three days had been good natures and the overall mood had been positive.
But she said Labour had not yet seen any compromise from May’s government, saying Labour was waiting to see if there will be any changes to the deal in the coming days from May.
Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab, seen as a front-runner to replace May as Conservative leader, warned Sunday that the Prime Minister’s Brexit negotiations with Labour’s Corbym were a major mistake.
Writing in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, Raab believed striking a deal with Corbyn risked handing the keys of 10 Downing Street to the Labour leader and destroying Brexit in the process.
May said that when she goes to Brussels on Wednesday she will seek a short extension to Article 50, with June 30 cited as a target date.
“My intention is to reach an agreement with my fellow EU leaders that will mean if we can agree a deal here at home we can leave the EU in just six weeks,” she said.