Brexit talks take positive turn towards possible compromise

Keir Starmer and John McDonnell leave the Cabinet Office

Cross-party talks on Brexit between the government and Labour have moved on to the “nuts and bolts” of a possible compromise, Labour’s Sue Hayman has said, with sources on both sides suggesting discussions were taking a more positive tone.

Talks with senior shadow ministers and officials are likely to continue this week, including on key areas of previous disagreement that had previously been swerved, including a customs union, single market alignment and dynamic alignment of workers’ rights and environmental protections.

It is understood no new offer from the government has been put on the table but participants emerged with a new optimism about a change in tone and a feeling that there were grounds to continue discussions, a marked contrast to last week’s talks.

Theresa May’s de-facto deputy, David Lidington, who has been leading talks for the government, said he was encouraged by the “need to inject greater urgency”.

Hayman, the shadow environment secretary, said it was “a really constructive discussion” that had been “getting much more into the nuts and bolts of the detail.” She said she now believed the government was “open to moving forward in our direction”.

The government has all but abandoned plans to try to force through the Brexit deal using the withdrawal agreement bill and will instead try to devise a way to forge a compromise through new indicative votes if talks with Labour break down.

May’s spokesman said cross-party talks would continue as long as there was “still a prospect of reaching a single position to put to parliament”, but added that the prime minister would then look to bring forward “a small number of votes to try and find a way through parliament”.

Asked whether that would be votes on new options for a Brexit deal or on legislation, the spokesman said: “I’m referring to options.”

There is an acknowledgement that something new must be attempted by the government before…

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