LONDON -- Prime Minister Theresa May is promising to reopen talks with the European Union on a future customs deal in an attempt to jump-start stalled negotiations with Britain's main opposition Labor Party.
May's office said Sunday that the government will explore with the EU this week how to rewrite the outline political agreement on the future partnership between the U.K. and the bloc. She wants to strike a deal on a joint blueprint for Britain's exit from the EU, working with Jeremy Corbyn's Labor Party in order to take Britain out of the bloc before the summer, according to the statement.
The prime minister is under mounting pressure over her failure to complete the U.K.'s divorce from the 28-country trade bloc, with a growing number of politicians in her Conservative Party saying she has failed and must resign.
The EU has said it is willing to make changes to the political declaration -- the nonbinding part of the Brexit deal that focuses on future ties. It has refused to reopen the divorce deal itself, which includes the controversial Irish border backstop. The U.K. government isn't asking to renegotiate that part.
May appealed to Corbyn for help after Parliament voted three times to reject the deal she negotiated with the EU. Her officials have been in talks with Labor for the past month without reaching a unified position.
On Sunday, Labor's chief Brexit spokesman, Keir Starmer, said members of Parliament, or MPs, from his party would be unlikely to give wholehearted backing to any plan that does not include another referendum to ratify public support for the deal.
"A significant number of Labor MPs, probably 120 if not 150, would not back a deal if it hasn't got a confirmatory vote," he told The Guardian newspaper.
May is battling to get a Brexit deal approved by Parliament, and has said she will step down once a deal is reached.
A full meeting is scheduled for today involving Labor officials and the senior government negotiating team -- including May's de facto deputy David Lidington and her chief of staff Gavin Barwell. They are due to bring together all the work and proposals on the table, May's officials said.
In the coming days, the government will explore with the EU when talks could reopen on making changes to the political declaration on future ties. This would be to discuss possible revisions to the text to take account of any deal May's team reaches with Labor -- specifically on customs arrangements, environmental protections and workers' rights.
Corbyn wants a full, permanent customs union between Britain and the EU after Brexit to protect trade and prevent cumbersome checks on goods crossing the border. May had ruled this out, arguing that it would prevent the U.K. from striking free-trade deals with non-EU countries -- a key goal of pro-Brexit campaigners in her Conservative Party.
Now, the government is considering compromise options for a customs union, including a temporary arrangement to last until the next general election, which is scheduled to take place in 2022.
May had originally wanted to lead Britain out of the EU by March 29.The May 23 elections for the European Parliament are fast approaching. Now, a senior British minister is warning that those elections will be seen by some as "the ultimate protest vote opportunity."
Education Secretary Damian Hinds told the BBC on Sunday that the elections in Britain will be difficult for May's Conservatives. His concern is that the newly formed Brexit Party, headed by pro-Brexit politician Nigel Farage, will draw votes that would otherwise go to the Conservatives or Labor.
Information for this article was contributed by Tim Ross and Stuart Biggs of Bloomberg News; and by staff members of The Associated Press.
A Section on 05/13/2019
Print Headline: May aims to reopen talks on exiting EU