Britain’s tumultuous divorce from the European Union was again in disarray Friday as last-ditch cross-party talks over breaking the Brexit impasse “have gone as far as they can go,” Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May, because of the instability of the government.
Corbyn said the Conservative Party’s moves toward selecting a new leader mean the government has become “ever more unstable and its authority eroded — undermining confidence in the “government’s ability to deliver any compromise agreement.”
Nearly three years after the United Kingdom unexpectedly voted in a referendum to leave the EU, it is still unclear how, when or if it will ever indeed quit the European club it joined in 1973.
May ends in June
The Brexit talks ended hours after May agreed Thursday to set out a timetable for her departure in early June.
“If the talks are not going anywhere, from my point of view that leads to only one conclusion,” Hilary Benn, the chairman of parliament’s Brexit committee, told BBC radio. “There are only two ways out of the Brexit crisis that we’ve got: either parliament agrees to a deal or we go back to the British people and ask them to make the choice.”
Labour talks a Hail Mary
After the Brexit deal that May struck with Brussels was defeated a third time by parliament, she announced April 2 that she would open talks with Labour. But the two parties have failed to agree on major issues such as the opposition party’s demand for a post-Brexit customs union.
Labour leader Corbyn, a veteran socialist who voted against membership of the EU in 1975, has said that May refused to budge on key demands.
May’s hands have been tied, knowing that to make concessions to Labour would lead to fury in her divided party. Labour has feared that any compromises on issues such as workers’ rights would be torn up by May’s successor.
May agreed Thursday to set out a timetable for her departure in early June, after a fourth and final attempt to push her Brexit deal through parliament.
Boris Johnson, the face of the campaign for Britain to leave the European Union, said he would be standing as a candidate to replace May as Conservative leader.
“Tories must go with Boris Johnson if they want to survive or they’ll end up as dead as a dodo,” Sun columnist Trevor Kavanagh said. “Even sopping wet Remainers can see the writing on the wall and want Theresa May out as fast as possible.”
The winner of a leadership contest will automatically become prime minister and will take control of the Brexit process, which has plunged Britain into its worst political crisis since World War II.