Cross-party Brexit talks, Rupa Huq’s probing of the PM and a ‘flextension’

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Talks between the government and Labour continued yesterday, with Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long-Bailey visiting the Cabinet Office for “technical discussions” lasting four and a half hours. Almost everyone has been highly doubtful about the chance of a cross-party deal being reached: many in Labour say it’s a trap that Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) fall into, while Tory Brexiteers are naturally furious about the idea of a soft Brexit winning the day.

While there are risks for Labour, two crucial factors have been overlooked: Corbyn has always wanted to shape Brexit, not stop it, and Theresa May, who is desperate to pass her withdrawal agreement, has run out of options. The biggest impediments are Labour MPs who only want another referendum and advisors to the Prime Minister who – incredibly – still hope that a ‘Malthouse Compromise’-style arrangement or no deal are viable. Can the party leaders get away with ignoring them?

If you’re looking for a more entertaining take on the situation, I’d recommend Rupa Huq. The Labour backbencher and campaigner for a public vote managed to secure her own private meeting with the Prime Minister. What did she get out of it? “I actually asked her if Bodyguard was accurate and she hadn’t seen it, so I said ‘ah you’re more of a Fleabag person’ and she didn’t know what I was talking about.” Apparently this was raised during an “uncomfortable silence”. Amazing.

The breaking news this morning is that May has asked Donald Tusk for an Article 50 extension until 30th June, with the option to drop out sooner if the Commons passes a Brexit deal before then. Apparently the EU is considering the idea of a ‘flextension’ (i.e. flexible extension, another one for the Brexit dictionary), though is keener on a year long one. Either way, the UK could field candidates for the European parliamentary elections but not then participate if MPs approved a withdrawal agreement before polling day. As LabourList exclusively revealed yesterday, Labour has started preparing for the contests by setting a timetable for the selection of its MEP candidates.

On LabourList today, Sadiq Khan has written about what he’s doing to tackle air pollution in London – including the world’s first ultra-low emission zone, which will come into effect on Monday. Ana Oppenheim, a pro-EU Labour activist with Momentum and Labour for Free Movement, has penned a piece on the new ‘Let Us Vote’ campaign to enfranchise migrants in the UK. Launching today, it so far has the support of Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Clive Lewis, David Lammy and Stephen Doughty. And of course we have the results of the Newport West by-election: huge congratulations to Ruth Jones, Labour’s newest MP.

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