Following Losses in Local Elections, PM May Considers Cross-Party Deal
Talks of a cross-party Brexit deal have begun between British Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The United Kingdom, which was supposed to leave the EU on March 29, failed to reach a deal, causing the date to be moved to Oct. 31. May failed to gain the support of the House of Commons any of the three times she put her proposed deal before Parliament.
The possibility of compromise surfaced after local elections on Thursday, in which both major parties suffered. The Conservatives, May’s party, lost 1,334 seats and Labour lost 82. The local elections were the electorate’s first opportunity to express its growing dissatisfaction and exasperation with politicians’ handling of Brexit. Meanwhile, smaller parties gained councillors, with the Green Party winning 194 more seats, the Liberal Democrats gaining 703, and other parties gaining 662 additional councillors.
Addressing Corbyn in the Mail on Sunday newspaper, May wrote, “Let’s do a deal.” The idea of a cross-party compromise came as an alarming surprise for Conservative party politicians. May admitted that she, too, had not wanted a deal with the opposition. However, she wrote that “we have to find a way to break the deadlock — and I believe the results of the local elections give fresh urgency to this.”
But the potential compromise is already under threat, as Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell criticized May’s publication of the talks. McDonnell alleged that May had “blown the confidentiality” of the talks and “jeopardized the negotiations,” insisting that Labour would only concede to a Brexit deal that included a permanent customs union with the EU to mitigate limits to trade.
Though the humbling local election results have pressured political leaders to consider striking a cross-party Brexit deal, May and Corbyn still face a stalemate as a result of internal critics who strongly support or oppose Brexit. Representatives within the Conservative Party continue to demand PM May’s resignation and Corbyn, who has refused to take a direct stance on Brexit, remains cornered by the pro- and anti-Brexit wings of the Labour Party.
Following the elections, Corbyn agreed on Friday that “An arrangement has to be made, a deal has to be done, Parliament has to resolve this issue. I think that is very, very clear.” Still, Corbyn faces constraint from the largest faction of the Labour Party that demands a second Brexit referendum.
May has been publicly opposed to a second referendum, but she has reportedly completed “scenario planning” for a second referendum if talks with Labour fail and Parliament supports bringing the vote back to citizens.