Brexit could ‘slip through our fingers’ unless deal agreed with Labour – May

Theresa May has warned that Brexit could "slip through our fingers" unless a compromise deal can be reached with Labour.

The Prime Minister, who has been accused by Labour of failing to propose changes to her deal in cross-party negotiations, insisted their positions offered "the basis for a compromise".

She said agreeing a deal could lead to the UK leaving the European Union in six weeks but a failure could result in no Brexit at all.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants a customs union to be part of a deal and he is also under pressure from his party to insist on a second referendum on any agreement – although that could trigger a revolt by some of his MPs, including senior frontbenchers.

Mrs May faces anger from Conservative Brexiteers over the prospect of the UK's departure being delayed, with one minister saying that if Britons were required to elect MEPs on May 23 it would be like writing a "suicide note" for the Tory party.

The Prime Minister heads to Brussels on Wednesday to ask for an extension to June 30, with the possibility of an earlier Brexit day if a deal is agreed – but the EU has signalled it would insist on a longer delay rather than risk repeated requests for extra time.

The Prime Minister said she had done "everything in my power" to persuade Tory and DUP MPs to back her deal but acknowledged the Withdrawal Agreement had been rejected by the Commons three times and "there is no sign it can be passed in the near future".

"Because Parliament has made clear it will stop the UK leaving without a deal, we now have a stark choice: leave the European Union with a deal or do not leave at all," she said.

"My answer to that is clear: we must deliver Brexit and to do so we must agree a deal. If we cannot secure a majority among Conservative and DUP MPs we have no choice but to reach out across the House of Commons.

"The referendum was not fought along party lines and people I speak to on the doorstep tell me they expect their politicians to work together when the national interest demands it.

"The fact is that on Brexit there are areas where the two main parties agree: we both want to end free movement, we both want to leave with a good deal, and we both want to protect jobs.

"That is the basis for a compromise that can win a majority in Parliament and winning that majority is the only way to deliver Brexit."

But she warned that "the longer this takes, the greater the risk of the UK never leaving at all".

"It would mean letting the Brexit the British people voted for slip through our fingers. I will not stand for that," she said.

Labour has accused Mrs May of refusing to consider changes to the Political Declaration, the document setting out a framework for the UK's future relationship with the EU.

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Pro-Brexit supporters, outside Downing Street, in Whitehall, Westminster, London, following the March to Leave protest.
Prime Minister Theresa May gives a press conference inside Downing Street, London, where she offered to sit down with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to try to agree a plan which allows the UK to leave the EU with a deal.
File photo dated 30/09/18 of Nigel Farage who has announced that he will stand in the European Parliament elections next month for his new Brexit Party.
Pro Brexit protesters are seen holding placards during the demonstration outside the House of Parliament as MPs debate eight motions related to Brexit with voting to begin later this evening. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Pro remain placards seen outside the Houses of Parliament during an anti Brexit protest. MPs debated eight motions related to Brexit and voted later in the evening. (Photo by Keith mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Brexit protesters in Westminster, London.
Tourists look at the Loyalist Tigers Bay mural and Vote Leave EU on the gable wall of a property in north Belfast with the biblical reference to Revelation 18:4, �And I heard another voice from heaven saying, �Come out of her, my people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues��.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a press conference at Farmleigh House in Dublin, following Brexit talks.
Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home in north London, after he said on Tuesday he would be "very happy" to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May when she offered to discuss plans with him on exiting the EU.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn with the Political Declaration setting out the framework for the future UK-EU relationship, in his office in the Houses of Parliament in London.
Prime Minister Theresa May gives a press conference inside Downing Street, London, where she offered to sit down with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to try to agree a plan which allows the UK to leave the EU with a deal.
A mural of Prime Minister Theresa May in the Harold's Cross area of Dublin.
Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for a press conference inside Downing Street, London, where she offered to sit down with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to try to agree a plan which allows the UK to leave the EU with a deal.
A giant effigy of Prime Minister Theresa May, with the British economy stuck to her long nose, seen among demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament during an anti Brexit protest. MPs debated eight motions related to Brexit and voted later in the evening. (Photo by Keith mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Pro Brexit placards are seen outside the House of Parliament as MPs debate eight motions related to Brexit with voting to begin later this evening. (Photo by Keith Mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A giant effigy of Prime Minister Theresa May, with the British economy stuck to her long nose, is seen outside the Houses of Parliament during an anti Brexit protest. MPs debated eight motions related to Brexit and voted later in the evening. (Photo by Keith mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A giant effigy of Prime Minister Theresa May, with the British economy stuck to her long nose, seen among demonstrators outside the Houses of Parliament during an anti Brexit protest. MPs debated eight motions related to Brexit and voted later in the evening. (Photo by Keith mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Anti Brexit protesters seen wrapped in flags outside Houses of Parliament in Westminster during an anti Brexit demonstration. MPs debated eight motions related to Brexit and voted later in the evening. (Photo by Keith mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A Pro-Remain supporter seen holding a placard protesting outside Houses of Parliament in Westminster. MPs debated eight motions related to Brexit and voted later in the evening. (Photo by Keith mayhew / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Prime Minister Theresa May leaving the House of Commons, London after MPs fail to back proposals on alternatives to her EU withdrawal deal.
People's Vote projection onto the Houses of Parliament, London, calling for another vote for the people about Brexit.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn leaving the House of Commons, London after MPs fail to back proposals on alternatives to Theresa May's EU withdrawal deal.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Liz Truss leaving the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, during the latest round of debates in the House of Commons concerning Brexit issues.
Leave and remain protesters outside the Houses of Parliament, London, ahead of the latest round of debates in the House of Commons concerning Brexit issues.
Eurosceptic Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg speaks in the House of Commons during a Brexit debate ahead of a second round of votes on alternative proposals to the government's Brexit deal.
Madeleina Kay, Young European of the Year 2018 dressed in blue holds an EU flag and entertains the public while singing about Brexit outside the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, ahead of the latest round of debates in the House of Commons concerning Brexit issues.
Anti-Brexit demonstrators near College Green at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, ahead of the latest round of debates in the House of Commons concerning Brexit issues.
Anti-Brexit demonstrators near College Green at the Houses of Parliament, Westminster, London, ahead of the latest round of debates in the House of Commons concerning Brexit issues.
File photo dated 24/03/18 of demonstrators at a Brexit protest march in Edinburgh, as a petition calling on the Government to halt the Brexit process has passed six million signatures.
Prime Minister Theresa May arrives with her husband Philip to attend a church service near her Maidenhead constituency.
The Border Communities Against Brexit group hold a protest along the border between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. On Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Carrickcarnon, Co. Louth, Ireland. Photo by Artur Widak
A dog passes near a Brexit sign during the Border Communities Against Brexit group protest hold along the border between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. On Saturday, March 30, 2019, in Carrickcarnon, Co. Louth, Ireland. Photo by Artur Widak
MP David Lammy addresses anti-Brexit campaigners in Parliament Square as they take part in the People's Vote March in London.
Thousands of Leave campaigners are seen outside Parliament during the protest. Leave campaigners protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day that UK was due to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May�s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Protester are seen outside House of Parliament holding England flags during the demonstration. Leave campaigners protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day that UK was due to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May�s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Protesters are seen holding placards and Union Jacks outside House of Parliament during the protest. Leave campaigners protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day that UK was due to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May�s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Couple of women seen holding a placard and a Union Jack outside House of Parliament during the protest. Leave campaigners protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day that UK was due to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May�s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Thousands of Leave campaigners are seen outside Parliament during the protest. Leave campaigners protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day that UK was due to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May�s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A woman is seen wearing a "I Love Brexit" hat and holding a placard outside House of Parliament during the protest. Leave campaigners protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day that UK was due to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May�s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
A couple is seen wearing large Union Jack hats outside House of Parliament during the protest. Leave campaigners protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day that UK was due to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May�s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Nigel Farage, seen speaking during the rally. After a 3rd defeat at the House of Commons. A pro Brexit rally takes place on Parliament Square London, with MP�s and other speakers. (Photo by Terry Scott / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Protesters are seen holding placards outside House of Parliament during the demonstration. Leave campaigners protest against the delay to Brexit, on the day that UK was due to leave the European Union. British Prime Minister Theresa May�s Brexit deal was defeated for a third time by a margin of 58 votes. (Photo by Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Pro Brexit supporters are seen seated outside the Houses of Parliament as they take part during the protest. Pro Brexit protesters gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, in central London, as the British MPs debated and rejected Theresa May�s Withdrawal Agreement for the third time. Many protesters featured dresses, suits and hats displaying the Union Jack flag and held banners and placards critical with politicians and demanding the UK to leave the EU. (Photo by Angeles Rodenas / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Julia Hartley-Brewer seen speaking during the rally. After a 3rd defeat at the House of Commons. A pro Brexit rally takes place on Parliament Square London, with MP�s and other speakers. (Photo by Terry Scott / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Pro Brexit supporters seen wearing blue hats with red stripes emulating the United Kingdom flag during the Leave means leave rally in London. A Leave means leave pro Brexit march begun on March 16 in Sunderland, UK and ended with a rally in Parliament Square on March 29 in London, same day that UK has been scheduled to leave the European Union. Pro Brexit protesters gathered at Parliament Square to demand from the government to deliver what was promised and leave the European Union without a deal. Nigel Farage and Tommy Robinson were seen giving speeches to their supporters in different stages during the pro Brexit protest. (Photo by Andres Pantoja / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
Brexit supporters gather at a March to Leave rally in Parliament Square in London, UK on March 29, 2019. (Photo by Claire Doherty/Sipa USA)
Pro-Brexit supporters stand in the road at Trafalgar Square in central London, following the March to Leave protest.
Pro-Brexit supporters stand in the road at Trafalgar Square in central London, following the March to Leave protest.
Pro-Brexit supporters burn a EU flag near to Trafalgar Square in central London, following the March to Leave protest.
A Pro-Brexit supporter wearing a Donald Trump mask in Whitehall, Westminster, London, following the March to Leave protest.
A Leave campaigner wears an Union Jack face paint at the March to Leave protest in Parliament Square, Westminster, London
Pro-Brexit supporters, in Whitehall, Westminster, London, during following the March to Leave protest.
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Mr Corbyn said: "The Labour position is a customs union with the European Union, access to European markets and the retention of regulations for environment, consumers, and workplace rights as a base on which we can build – a dynamic relationship which means we can never fall below them.

"We've set all that out. I haven't noticed any great change in the Government's position so far. I'm waiting to see the red lines move."

The prospect of a long extension to the Article 50 process could mean the UK being required to take part in the May 23 elections to the European Parliament, almost three years after voting for Brexit.

Government minister Nadhim Zahawi issued a stark warning about the "seismic" changes to British politics that would be unleashed if the UK's delayed departure meant the elections went ahead.

"It would be, I think, a suicide note of the Conservative Party if we had to fight the European elections," he told BBC Radio 4's Today.

European leaders will decide on Mrs May's request at an emergency summit on Wednesday in Brussels.

European Council president Donald Tusk is expected to recommend a longer postponement of one year, with a break clause in the case of earlier ratification, in a so-called "flextension" deal.

An extension is not automatic and requires the agreement of all 27 other EU countries, with France demanding a plan from Mrs May that has "clear and credible political backing".

Irish premier Leo Varadkar warned that any EU country vetoing an extension would not be forgiven.

"If one country was to veto an extension and, as a result, impose hardship on us, real problems for the Dutch and Belgians and French as neighbouring countries ... they wouldn't be forgiven for it and they would know they might find themselves on the other end of that veto power in the future – so it is extremely unlikely that I could see any country vetoing it," he told RTE Radio One.

Mrs May has already obtained one extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process, postponing the date of Brexit from March 29 to April 12.

Chancellor Philip Hammond acknowledged the frustration with the British among the 27 other EU members.

"Most of the colleagues that I am talking to accept that we will need longer to complete this process, so I am optimistic about the council on Wednesday," he said.

"I understand that EU colleagues are somewhat fed up that the process has taken as long as it has; we are also fed up that we haven't been able to complete this earlier, but I am very confident that we will get it done."

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