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Breakdown in Brexit talks between Labour and UK Government increases pressure on both parties

Credit: PA

The end of talks between Labour’s Shadow Cabinet and the UK Government increases pressure on both parties in different ways.

For now the blame game is being played. Downing Street has pinned responsibility on Labour divisions over a referendum.

But Labour’s equally clear it’s the instability of Theresa May’s Government which undermined the talks.

Shadow Welsh Secretary Christina Rees said:

The UK Government grow more unstable every day and it is clear that the Cabinet are now only focused on who will succeed Theresa May. We’ve taken the talks as far as they could go. Labour entered the negotiations in good faith but the government has so far refused to back a deal that could prevent damage to the economy. We will continue to prioritise jobs, living standards and the manufacturing industry in Wales and across the UK.

– Christina Rees MP, Shadow Welsh Secretary
Mark Drakeford said the breakdown was ''deeply worrying'' Credit: PA

Meanwhile, First Minister Mark Drakeford described the breakdown as ''deeply worrying.''

The blame lies with the chaos within the UK Government which is now completely ineffective. The deal on the table is not going to pass with the Prime Minister simply crossing her fingers and hoping for the best. The Commons must now take control and must find a process which delivers a real outcome which commands majority support.

– First Minister Mark Drakeford

The trouble with that is that when the Commons last seized control to try to find a form of Brexit that most MPs would support, it failed. Twice. In any case the government is said to be planning to hold its own version of that process, known as ‘indicative votes’, next week.

That may or may not be separate to the other main effort for Theresa May. Now in her last weeks as Prime Minister, she will make one final attempt to try to win the support of MPs for her Brexit deal. Don’t hold your breath. She’s failed to do that three times and there’s little chance she’ll succeed a fourth.

What’s more, by putting the deal before MPs as part of the (still unpublished) Withdrawal Agreement Bill, she’s raised the stakes even higher than before. Defeated motions were bad enough but defeat in such crucial legislation will be something she can’t come back from even if her party would let her.

However for Labour the pressure is on the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn to swing behind an unequivocal commitment to a new Brexit referendum.

He’s so far managed to keep it open as an option, something which has frustrated many within Labour who think the time for nuance is long gone. They include many of his own supporters as well as those who still haven’t come to terms with him being in charge.

Those ‘People’s Vote-ers’ as they’re known will try to put pressure on the UK leadership for an unequivocal commitment.

I’m not sure they’ll succeed. I’ve heard complaints this week that those close to the top of the leadership are ignorant of even basic facts about the EU because they simply see it as '‘a capitalist monster.’'

I have also heard rumours that the Shadow Brexit Secretary Keir Starmer is willing to push things to the furthest to ensure a referendum commitment. If he fails to persuade his colleagues, the rumour goes, he’ll lead up to a dozen resignations from the shadow cabinet. '‘The nuclear option.’'

Mark Drakeford won’t be immune from that pressure either. His statement will disappoint some in Welsh Labour for not stating this moment as one to commit to a new vote. He’s stuck doggedly to his position that it’s an option if all other options fails.

Plaid Cymru is trying to add to the pressure. Its Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts says:

Both the Conservatives and Labour remain committed to delivering Brexit, so in many ways it is a shock that a deal has not been done. We know, whether it is a red, blue or any other colour Brexit, Wales will face serious economic consequences. As the Party of Wales, we cannot let our country come to harm as a result of Westminster’s incompetence.

With Westminster in deadlock and now every option exhausted, the only solution left on the table is a People’s Vote.

No more games, no more gambits, no more gambling with our future. It’s time both parties realised, we must now take Brexit back to the people and out of the Westminster bubble.

– Liz Saville Roberts, Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader

Mr Drakeford’s predecessor as First Minister doesn’t need any more convincing. Carwyn Jones was also criticised for not committing unequivocally to a public vote. He’s clear enough now, tweeting today that "now this can only be settled by a referendum. Nothing else has worked. The people deserve the final say."

So while much of the attention is rightly on the Conservatives, Labour too is split. No wonder one senior figure said to me this week, ‘I don’t know how long I can stay in my bloody party.’