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  1. ITV Report

Cross-party Brexit talks to continue during Parliament's Easter recess despite no sign of movement over 'red lines'

Cabinet Minister David Lidington said cross-party Brexit talks will continue during Parliament's Easter recess. Credit: BBC One/The Andrew Marr Show

The Government has said attempts to find a Brexit compromise with Labour will continue during Parliament's Easter recess, despite no sign of movement on either side's "red lines".

Cabinet Minister David Lidington said he and Labour's John McDonnell had "agreed a programme of meetings next week on particular subjects... about things like environmental standards, like workers rights, like security relationships between the United Kingdom and the EU".

Theresa May's de facto deputy added that after these meetings, both parties would "take stock of where we are as soon as Parliament gets back after the Easter recess".

  • ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks says that it is "surprising" that there has not been more achieved in the cross-party talks, since the Government is "desperate" to avoid the UK taking part in the European elections

However, the EU has insisted the terms of the UK's withdrawal, rejected three times by MPs, cannot be renegotiated - but there is scope to strengthen the political declaration, a document setting out the parameters of the UK's future relations with the EU, ahead of the new Brexit deadline of 31 October.

The EU has insisted the terms of the UK's withdrawal cannot be renegotiated. Credit: PA

Speaking on BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show, Mr Lidington, reiterated the Government's position that any agreement reached between the Conservatives and Labour would require "compromise on both sides".

However, currently in talks between the two parties, the issue of a customs union is thought to be creating a sticking point.

A customs union arrangement with a British say on EU trade deals is a central plank of Labour’s plan for Brexit.

Accepting this would mean the Prime Minister has to tear up a key red line and risk splitting her party.

Such a move would limit the UK’s ability to strike trade deals with non-EU countries, a central aim of Brexiteers.

Mr Lidington suggested the two sides were considering whether there was a "mechanism" to deliver the benefits of a customs union, such as tariff and quota-free trade with the EU, while also enabling the UK to have an independent trade policy and input into EU agreements affecting the UK.

"What we have found in terms of objectives… there is fair bit that both parties would have in common," he said, but added: "If we are going to find an agreement there needs to be movement on both sides."

Mr Lidington also said the Government remains opposed to Labour's calls for a second referendum on any deal agreed on, saying people had already voted in the 2016 referendum and expected to see the results carried out.

If the cross-party talks do not end in an agreement, then Mr Lidington said the Government would "put before Parliament a set of options" which it would "actually having to come to a preferred option" on "rather than voting against everything".

He continued that if this happened, then the Government would "stand ready to implement what Parliament decides".

Former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith said the cross-party talks were a 'recipe for disaster'. Credit: Sky News/Sophy Ridge On Sunday

However, appearing on Sky News' Sophy Ridge On Sunday, former Tory party leader Iain Duncan Smith called the cross-party talks a "recipe for disaster" for his party.

The MP for Chingford and Woodford Green warned against his party embracing Labour's Brexit policy, saying he had "real concerns with some of my colleagues going out lauding Jeremy Corbyn".

"We need to be very clear in the course of this that we don't end up letting Jeremy Corbyn dictate to us that we stay in a customs union, or we have some kind of second referendum, or stay aligned with the European single market - all of that given to us by Jeremy Corbyn is a recipe for disaster."

He also called on Mrs May to make way for a new Conservative leader next month - but Mr Lidington insisted changing the Prime Minister would "not change the arithmetic in Parliament".