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Tory-Labour Brexit talks move on to ‘nuts and bolts’

Cross-party talks to break the Brexit deadlock have moved on to the "nuts and bolts" after the latest "positive" set of meetings.

Sue Hayman, Labour's shadow environment secretary, emerged from the Cabinet Office on Monday to declare the day's negotiations with senior government ministers as "very constructive".

There is still "a lot more to discuss", she added, but suggested the government had shown willingness to drop some of its red lines.

Labour's Sue Hayman outside the Cabinet Office after Brexit compromise talks
Image: Labour's Sue Hayman called the talks 'very constructive'

"We've had a problem – the government hasn't been prepared to move, but now we're exploring how the government can move," Ms Hayman said, flanked by a contingent of other top Labour MPs.

"I believe the government is open to moving forward in our direction."

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David Lidington, the de facto deputy prime minister, praised the "productive" meeting.

In a rare update after the negotiations wound up for the day, he said: "We've been testing some ideas in the room, and there's more room to be taken place during the week."

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But Mr Lidington refused to say how long the talks would continue, amid fears within the Conservatives about the looming European Parliament election.

"It's probably not sensible to set an absolutely hard and fast deadline – that then becomes a sort of cliff edge in itself that ramps up expectations," Mr Lidington cautioned.

David Lidington
Image: David Lidington would not set a deadline for the compromise negotations

Michel Barnier, the EU's Brexit negotiator, said during a speech in Belgium that "we are hoping to see the results of the cross-party talks this week".

The discussions have been going on since the start of April, sparked by Mrs May suffering the third defeat of her Brexit deal in parliament.

Still without the crucial backing of Brexiteer Tories and her confidence and supply partners the DUP, she called for a new approach of "national unity".

Mrs May and Mr Corbyn met several times, and have instructed senior shadow ministers and aides to hold talks in the weeks since.

But they were paused over recess – the week parliament winds down over Easter – amid claims by Labour that the government was refusing to budge much.

MPs are being blamed for the problems that party activists face
Image: MPs have three times voted down Mrs May's EU divorce deal

Pro-second referendum campaigner Rupa Huq MP told Sky News the prime minister "banged her head on the desk" when she challenged her to clarify what red lines she was willing to scrap.

Britain is now on course to leave the EU by 31 October, but will be forced out of the bloc with no-deal on 1 June if it refuses to elect a new cohort of MEPs at the end of May.

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