The UK Labour Party accused Theresa May of lacking the support within her Conservative Party to deliver a Brexit that will protect jobs, offering her a cross-party deal
that will only add to pressure on the embattled prime minister.
Keir Starmer, the party’s Brexit spokesman, wrote to May on Monday telling her there was a “sensible majority” in Parliament to secure a two-year transition deal for after Brexit. That would allow Britain to stay inside the European Union’s single market and customs union after 2019 while it completes trade talks with the bloc. He said the opposition to such an arrangement came from Conservatives.
“Over recent weeks, it has become increasingly clear that you alone do not have the authority to deliver a transitional deal with Europe and to take the necessary steps to protect jobs and the economy,” Starmer wrote in the letter, which was released by his office.
May is unlikely to welcome Labour’s offer, which highlights the fragility of her position. The premier, who lost two cabinet ministers in a week to different scandals, has received a letter from pro-Brexit rival Boris Johnson demanding a bolder approach to the divorce, the Mail reported. And 40 Conservative lawmakers back a challenge to her leadership, The Sunday Times said, just eight short of the number that triggers a vote. The pound fell 0.8 percent and a measure of volatility a month from now — when a crunch European summit is scheduled — spiked to the most since early October.
May’s landmark Brexit legislation, the EU Withdrawal Bill, returns to Parliament on Tuesday, where it faces hundreds of proposed amendments to be considered over eight days of debate. Even with the backing of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, May only has a slim majority. Tories who want to keep close ties to the EU have put their names on many of the measures, suggesting the government will have to back down or be defeated.
May is caught between Tories who want to soften her Brexit stance and those wanting a clean break with minimal transition and payments to the EU. Foreign Secretary Johnson and Environment Secretary Michael Gove wrote a joint memo to May, warning that the government wasn’t working hard enough on Brexit and insisting that the transition should last two years at most.
Gove declined to discuss the letter, reported in the Mail, beyond confirming its existence. But he did signal a willingness to accept higher payments to the EU if that was the price of a Brexit deal. “I wouldn’t block the prime minister in doing what she believed was right,” Gove said, adding that May and Brexit Secretary David Davis “should be given the flexibility they need in order to secure that good deal.”
Davis was more reticent, telling Sky that the public “would not want me to just come along and give away billions.” The idea that the UK could offer more has come as Brexit talks remain stalled. Davis waved off the suggestion from EU negotiator Michel Barnier that progress was needed in the next fortnight.