Chancellor Philip Hammond has said the government has no ‘red lines’ with Labour when it comes to Brexit negotiations.
Mr Hammond today said that he is ‘optimistic’ that the Conservatives will be able to reach some sort of agreement with Labour, and that the Tories will keep an open mind when it comes to discussions.
Speaking at a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Bucharest, he said that the conversation with the Labour party will continue and that it is an ongoing process.
He once again highlighted Downing Street’s willingness to involve Labour in the discussions and said that they expect to form ‘some sort of agreement’.
Mr Hammond said talks would continue today after they collapsed last night with no sign of a breakthrough with Labour blaming Mrs May for refusing to budge.
Philip Hammond (centre) is attending a meeting in Romania with governors of central banks
He said: ‘Parliament will be sitting next week so if there is something to consider then we can put it to parliament.
‘We should be open to suggestions that others have made – our approach to these discussions with Labour is that we have no red lines.’
Mr Hammond said that he would be going into the talks with an open mind and would aim to discuss things in an ‘open fashion’.
His declaration of no red lines may come as a surprise to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, as Theresa May had previously stated that an adamancy it would cease freedom of movement and a steadfast opposition to a second referendum.
Philip Hammond said talks with Labour (leader Jeremy Corbyn, pictured above) are ongoing
Philip Hammond has said that Theresa May (pictured) should be open minded when entering into talks with Labour
Labour could refuse to come back to the negotiating table unless the Tories agree that Britain stays in the EU customs union after Brexit.
Labour’s Brexit chief, Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘So far, the Government isn’t proposing any changes to the deal. In particular, it’s not countenancing any changes to the actual wording of the Political Declaration.
‘Now, obviously that’s disappointing; compromise requires change. We want the talks to continue and we’ve written in those terms to the Government but we do need change if we’re going to compromise.’
On Friday the Prime Minister wrote to European Council president Donald Tusk asking for a further delay to Brexit, which would otherwise happen at 11pm on April 12.
The UK’s exit from the EU had already been delayed from March 29 and she has now asked for the extension to stretch to June 30.
She has asked for the UK to stay part of the EU to June 30, after it was already delayed from March 29.
Last night Labour accused Theresa May of failing to offer opposition ‘real change or compromise’ after a third day of talks between senior frontbenchers and officials on both sides.
Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer leaving the Cabinet Office yesterday following cross party talks in London
With just days to go to find a consensus and get an agreed deal though the Commons after months of division, Labour voiced ‘disappointment’ at the way they had gone.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the Government was ‘not countenancing any changes’ to the wording of the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future UK-EU relationship.
In a sign that talks with ministers have so far failed to produce a breakthrough, he said: ‘Well, we’ve had two rounds of talks and today we’ve had an exchange of correspondence with the Government.
‘So far, the Government isn’t proposing any changes to the deal. In particular it’s not countenancing any changes to the actual wording of the political declaration.
‘Now obviously that’s disappointing; compromise requires change. We want the talks to continue and we’ve written in those terms to the Government, but we do need change if we’re going to compromise.’
A Labour spokesman added: ‘We are disappointed that the Government has not offered real change or compromise.
‘We urge the Prime Minister to come forward with genuine changes to her deal in an effort to find an alternative that can win support in Parliament and bring the country together.’
JACK DOYLE: So what DOES Labour want from Theresa in return for their backing on Brexit?
The customs union eliminates duties – or tariffs – between member states, while EU countries impose a common external tariff on imports from non-members.
But the customs union also allows the EU to strike trade deals on behalf of all its members.
The Prime Minister made leaving the customs union a ‘red line’ in her negotiations due to her desire to strike independent trade deals with other countries – such as the USA.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, pictured with his shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer, left and shadow business secretary, Rebecca Long-Bailey, right, discussed strategy ahead of the his meeting with the PM yesterday
eremy Corbyn wants a permanent customs union. He says it will help protect existing trade between the UK and EU, in particular that of manufactured goods which relies on complex supply chains – links which can break down if goods are delayed at the border
Remaining in the union would stop this because the UK would be barred from reducing its tariffs on imported goods from other countries.
They could only strike deals in the services sector – however this does make up a vast part of the modern UK economy.
Jeremy Corbyn wants a permanent customs union. He says it will help protect existing trade between the UK and EU, in particular that of manufactured goods which relies on complex supply chains – links which can break down if goods are delayed at the border.
Labour also says that remaining in the customs union will help keep trade flowing freely between Northern Ireland and the Republic without the need for the so-called ‘backstop’.
Mr Corbyn claims his proposal does include the UK having a say on future trade deals negotiated by the EU and affecting the UK. But this is something Brussels has apparently ruled out.
Despite all this, senior Tory ministers were out in force yesterday preparing the ground for a customs union compromise. Attorney General Geoffrey Cox argued that the customs union might be needed to get out – claiming the UK could leave at a later point and a customs union would not be a ‘permanent straitjacket’.
Under Mrs May’s deal, the UK agrees not to row back on existing EU rules on workers’ rights – such as the Working Time Directive which limits working hours – after we leave.
But Mr Corbyn wants to go further and is demanding ‘dynamic alignment’ – meaning any future government would agree to accept any employment laws and trade union rules passed by the EU in future, regardless of Parliament’s wishes. So what if the EU agreed to a four-day working week, or passed other regulations which would erode competitiveness?
Mrs May claims to be a champion of workers’ rights, so this is an area she could argue is consistent with her approach, even if it limits the UK’s ability to set its own course in future because we are tied to Brussels diktats.
In theory, the parties are not far apart on free movement – one of the central issues of the referendum campaign.
Vast numbers of Labour voters backed Leave because they oppose uncontrolled immigration. This was reflected in Labour’s manifesto which said free movement will end after we leave.
For Mrs May, ending free movement is her reddest of red lines. But Labour policy on what migration policy should replace free movement is significantly more liberal than Tory policy. In particular, the Opposition is against the proposed £30,000 minimum earnings requirement for post-Brexit working visas.
Could Mr Corbyn demand this is scrapped and a lower earnings threshold imposed?
For Mrs May, ending free movement is her reddest of red lines. But Labour policy on what migration policy should replace free movement is significantly more liberal than Tory policy
Publicly, Downing Street officials have not ruled out agreeing to a second referendum.
Yet if anything is a deal breaker, it is a demand for another Brexit vote. The whole point of the talks with Mr Corbyn – and the reward for Mrs May enduring civil war in the Tory Party – is that Brexit goes through in short order with Labour backing.
But a second referendum, with Remain on the ballot paper, would require a Brexit delay of at least a year and the UK taking part in MEP elections next month – both currently unacceptable to Mrs May.
On Mr Corbyn’s side, the second referendum is the issue which divides his Shadow Cabinet, MPs, activists and voters like no other. Agree to a deal without one and the Remainers in his party will be livid.
If he wants to deliberately crash the talks, this is what Mr Corbyn demand