Sunday, 14 August 2022 – 18:07

Tories warn May as she plans to meet Macron and Merkel

Amid Conservative party chaos PM May is due to meet Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel tomorrow to secure a second extension to June 30, only days before the UK is due to leave the European Union.

It comes just after solicitor general Robert Buckland hinted Theresa May could come around to the idea of a softer Brexit after opening cross-party talks with the Labour party last week, resulting in somewhat of a backlash from Brexiteers.

Speaking on Radio Four’s Westminster Hour on Sunday, Buckland said a Custom’s Union would probably be the area where an agreement will most likely be reached.

He said: “Whilst I don’t pretend it’s ideal – I think there are some real drawbacks with it – it does mean we deliver the end to freedom of movement and it does mean that we deliver the vast majority of, I think, the aims of Brexit, which was to leave the institutions of the European Union.

“It’s not perfect, but frankly in this particular hung parliament none of us can get perfection, we need to compromise… something approximating a customs arrangement or customs union I think would be the most likely outcome.”

May will be hoping that talks with Macron and Merkel one day before the EU summit on Wednesday – where the EU council will decide if an extension to June 30 can be granted – will give her an upper hand in the decision they make.

However, speaking to Sky News, an EU source said Donald Tusk told member country officials the European Council would only be offering May a “flextension”, consisting of a year-long extension which could be automatically terminated once the House of Commons gained a majority on the deal.

He said it would be a good scenario for both sides as it would be giving the UK all the flexibility it needs while avoiding an EU summit every few weeks to discuss shorter Brexit extensions.

But following May’s failure to convince MPs to back her deal on three occasions, she has now been forced to side with Labour to come up with a cross-party agreement – which has received crushing criticism from Tory Brexiteers accusing her of willingly “abandoning” the cardinal principle and reasoning behind Brexit in the first place.

Writing about Jeremy Corbyn in the Telegraph, former cabinet minister Boris Johnson said how “utterly incredible” it was for the Labour leader to be invited to Downing Street for talks and that he is “not fit to govern”.

“In order to get Corbyn onside, the Government is apparently willing to abandon the cardinal principle and central logic of Brexit,” he said, “If the UK were to commit to remaining in the Customs Union, it would make a total and utter nonsense of the referendum result.”

He further suggested the UK would be out of the EU but would in many ways still be run by the EU “forever”, adding, he found the news so appalling that he didn’t “really believe it”.

And despite cross-party talks being held over the weekend, there were none scheduled for today – with May’s spokesperson saying the prime minister was making calls to other European leaders from number 10.

Also breathing down Theresa May’s neck is shadow Brexit secretary and negotiator, Sir Kier Starmer, who told the BBC although talks had been taking place in “good faith” and that “both sides… have approached this in the spirit of trying to find a way forward” – that Labour is still waiting to see what the government is putting on the table as a proposal.

“All they have done so far is indicate various things but not to change the political declaration [the non-legally binding document setting out the UK’s future relationship with the EU] so the ball is in the government’s court.

He added: “We need to see what they come back with and when we do we will take a collective position on that.”

All of these plans from the government could be thrown up in the air however if a bill from Labour’s Yvette Cooper and ex-minister Sir Oliver Letwin passes into law tonight (Monday), which would essentially ensure the prime minister to consult the House of Commons on the proposed length of a further extension to Article 50.

In response, a motion would be tabled by May, only to then be amended by MPs to shorten, lengthen or add more conditions to the Brexit delay – revealing the lack of legitimate power she currently has. 

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