U.K.’s May seeks Brexit deal amid mounting pressure to quit
After several weeks of fruitless negotiations, senior Conservative and Labour lawmakers resumed discussions in what appears to be one final push to reach an agreement
LONDON—British Prime Minister Theresa May faced renewed pressure Tuesday from lawmakers in her Conservative Party to abandon efforts to seek a Brexit compromise deal with the opposition Labour Party.
After several weeks of fruitless negotiations, senior Conservative and Labour lawmakers resumed discussions in what appears to be one final push to reach an agreement.
The talks have been given new urgency by last week’s local elections, which saw the Conservatives hammered and Labour also lose ground as voters expressed anger at the country’s Brexit impasse.
Almost three years after Britain voted to leave the EU, the date and terms of Brexit remain uncertain. The U.K.’s departure date has been postponed from March 29 until Oct. 31 because lawmakers have repeatedly rejected May’s divorce deal with the bloc.
That has led her to seek a deal with Labour. But the left-of-centre opposition party insists it will only agree to a Brexit deal that includes a permanent customs union with the EU to avoid barriers to the trade of goods. The government wants a looser relationship with the bloc that would let Britain strike new trade deals around the world.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said “compromises on all sides” were needed “because the message of last week was that voters for both main parties are very, very angry about the fact that Brexit hasn’t been delivered.”
But suggestions the government might soften the terms of departure from the EU has infuriated pro-Brexit Conservatives, who are demanding May’s resignation.
“The time has come for her to resign,” said lawmaker Bill Cash. “She needs to be given a date. The sooner the better. But it needs to be done in an orderly manner.”
May has said she will step down once a Brexit deal has been ratified, but it’s unclear when—or even if—that will happen.
The chairman of a powerful Conservative committee that oversees party leadership contests was due to meet May later Tuesday to deliver a demand for “clarity” about her departure date.
Local Conservative organizations have said they will hold a non-binding no-confidence vote in May’s leadership on June 15.