Labour Brexit negotiations failing after government concedes UK will take part in EU elections

Labour's Brexit negotiations with the government appear to be failing, it has been hinted, after the government conceded that the UK will take part in EU elections, despite comments to the contrary.

Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow secretary for business and one of Labour's Brexit negotiators, gave an update on cross-party talks.

She said: "Without a government that's willing to compromise it's difficult to see how any agreement can be reached."

When quizzed on whether there's any point in continuing with negotiations, Ms Long-Bailey defiantly said "of course there's a point" before admitting there has been no movement or agreement.

It came after Theresa May's effective deputy David Lidington confirmed the EU elections will go ahead on May 23 as MPs have still not agreed a Brexit deal.

Speaking ahead of cross-party talks he said "regrettably" the UK had run out of time and it is "not going to be possible to finish that process" before the date Britain has to legally take part in the elections.

However he added the Government was "redoubling our efforts" to get an EU deal ratified by the start of July so the MEPs elected this month never have to take their seats.

Mr Lidington was speaking shortly before the cross-party Brexit talks with Labour in Whitehall.

He added: "We very much hoped that we would be able to get our exit sorted and have the treaty concluded so that those elections did not have to take place. But legally, they do have to take place - unless our withdrawal has been given legal effect - so those will now go ahead."

Ms Long-Bailey appeared to blame the prime minister for UK having to take part, saying it was "sad that the prime minister procrastinated, shall we say, in order for us to reach this point".

It came amid a meeting between the PM and the chairman of the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs, Sir Graham Brady, in which a timetable for her departure was expected to be discussed.

A Downing Street source would not comment further on the meeting.

Pressure on both sides to make progress was heightened by their poor performance in last week’s local elections, which both Conservative and Labour leaderships interpreted as a message from voters to get on with delivering Brexit.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer arriving at the latest Brexit talks. Credit: PA

Arriving at the talks, Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said talks had reached "crunch point".

He added: "I think the time has now come to a crunch time where the Government has to decide whether it's serious about significant changes capable of actually carrying a majority in the House of Commons."

State of the parties - according to the opinion polls. Credit: PA Graphics

Mrs May had been hoping the talks would deliver a compromise deal in time to allow her to call off the European Parliament elections.

But, more than a month after the talks began, Mr Lidington acknowledged time is now too tight to get a Withdrawal Agreement Bill through both Houses of Parliament by the date of the poll.

Speaking at the Cabinet Office in Whitehall, he said that after its Withdrawal Agreement was rejected three times by MPs, the Government was trying to find “a way forward that has maximum possible support amongst politicians of all political parties”.

“What this now means, given how little time there is, is that it is regrettably not going to be possible to finish that process before the date that is legally due for European parliamentary elections,” he said.

“But we will be redoubling our efforts and talks with MPs of all parties to try to make sure that the delay after that is as short as possible.

“Ideally we’d like to be in a situation where those MEPs never actually have to take their seat at European Parliament – certainly, to get this done and dusted by the summer recess.”