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Senior Conservatives tell May to ditch Brexit talks with Labour

Kitco News

LONDON (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Theresa May was told by senior members of her own party on Tuesday to abandon talks to find a Brexit compromise with the opposition Labor Party as pressure mounted on her to name a date for standing down.

Nearly three years after the United Kingdom voted 52% to 48% to leave the European Union, there is still no agreement among British politicians about when, how or even if the divorce should take place.

The country was due to have left the European Union on March 29, but May has been unable to get her divorce deal approved by parliament, so she has turned to the Labor Party, led by socialist Jeremy Corbyn, for help.

Thirteen of May’s former cabinet colleagues as well as Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative lawmakers, wrote to May to ask her not to agree to Labor’s demand for a post-Brexit customs union with the EU.

“You would have lost the loyal middle of the Conservative Party, split our party and with likely nothing to show for it,” the letter said. “We urge you to think again.”

“No leader can bind his or her successor so the deal would likely be at best temporary, at worst illusory,” said the letter, which was signed by Gavin Williamson, who was sacked as defense minister this month, and former foreign minister Boris Johnson.

May has repeatedly ruled out signing up to a permanent customs union. Corbyn said last week May had made no big offer on Brexit and had not moved her “red lines”.

At a meeting with the parliamentary Labor Party on Monday, Corbyn came under pressure to clarify his position on Brexit, with both backers of a second referendum and others who want a deal to leave arguing their case, sources told Reuters.

May, who secured the leadership in the chaos that followed Britain’s 2016 vote to leave the European Union, has promised to step down if lawmakers back the deal she struck with Brussels to leave the bloc.

But the prime minister has lost heavily on three attempts to get it through parliament. And some of her own lawmakers want her to name a date for her departure.

U.S. investment bank JPMorgan said on Tuesday it was difficult to see May surviving beyond the end of June.

“Although PM May’s survival skills have been impressive to date, our sense is that the sand is finally running out of the hourglass for her leadership of the Conservatives,” JPMorgan said.

May’s chief Brexit negotiator Olly Robbins was due in Brussels to discuss changes to the political declaration on the UK’s future relationship with the EU. The EU has said it is willing to change the political declaration but it must know what changes London wants to make.

(The online version of the story corrects ‘Labor’ to ‘Labour’ in the headline.)

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Elizabeth Piper; editing by Michael Holden and Janet Lawrence

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