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European Business Hardline British Conservatives slam Theresa May’s cross-party Brexit talks

Pro-Brexit supporters wave flags in London. (File Photo).

The Associated Press

Britain’s pro-Brexit Conservatives are protesting angrily against Prime Minister Theresa May’s decision to seek the Opposition party’s help in finding a compromise Brexit agreement.

Ms. May acknowledged Saturday that, despite her best efforts to persuade lawmakers to back her European Union divorce deal, “there is no sign it can be passed in the near future.”

She said there was no choice but to reach out to the Opposition Labour Party. Otherwise, she says, Brexit could “slip through our fingers” unless a compromise alternative can be reached with Labour lawmakers.

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But leading Conservative Brexiter Jacob Rees-Mogg on Sunday slammed Ms. May’s move to include Labour in the Brexit talks, and blamed her for failing to take Britain out of the EU already.

Three days of cross-party talks so far have ended with no agreement.

Ms. May has turned to the Opposition in a bid to secure a majority for an orderly Brexit, although Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said on Saturday he was waiting for Ms. May to move her Brexit red lines.

“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,” Ms. May said in comments released by her Downing Street office. “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.

“The longer this takes, the greater the risk of the U.K. never leaving at all,” she said.

Ms. May has a plan to enshrine in law a customs arrangement with the EU to win over the Labour Party, and her aides have discussed offering the Opposition a place in the British delegation to Wednesday’s EU summit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported.

The Prime Minister has asked EU leaders to postpone Britain’s exit from the bloc until June 30. The EU, which gave her a two-week extension the previous time she asked, insists she must first show a viable plan to secure agreement on her thrice-rejected divorce deal in the British parliament.

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It is the latest twist in a saga that leaves Britain, the world’s fifth-largest economy, struggling to find a way to honour a 2016 referendum vote to take the country out of the globe’s largest trading bloc.

Ms. May reiterated on Saturday her hope that lawmakers would approve a deal to allow Britain to leave the bloc as quickly as possible.

“My intention is to reach an agreement with my fellow EU leaders that will mean if we can agree a deal here at home we can leave the EU in just six weeks,” she said.

One of the most senior Brexiters in her government, the leader of the lower house of parliament Andrea Leadsom, also said there was a risk of Brexit slipping further from grasp.

“The vision we had of Brexit is fading away – and we are running out of time to save it,” she wrote in the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

Some of Ms. May’s lawmakers are warning they will try to oust her if Britain participates in EU parliamentary elections next month and is forced to extend membership of the bloc beyond June, The Observer newspaper reported.

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The Sunday Telegraph said ministers are discussing whether to resign if a Brexit delay means Britain must field candidates.

In a further sign of the ever-heavier strains on the Conservatives, more than 100 candidates for coming local elections wrote to Ms. May warning of the growing anger at the grassroots level and among the public.

“Our party and our government have completely lost touch with voters,” the candidates said, according to The Sunday Telegraph. “Let’s be clear: More fudge and a further dilution of Brexit is not the answer.”

Opposition leader Mr. Corbyn also faces pressure as more than 80 of his lawmakers warned that another vote on Brexit must be a red line in Labour’s talks with the government, The Independent newspaper said.

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