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UK govt urged to move on Brexit red lines in talks with opposition

Labour wants to see 'hard and fast movement ... as quickly as possible', says party's business spokesman

London

TALKS between the British government and the opposition Labour Party aimed at finding a consensus over the way forward on Brexit have been productive but the government needs to move on its red lines, Labour's business spokesman said on Sunday.

Parliament has rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's exit agreement with Brussels three times and she now hopes to reach a compromise with Labour which will see the deal approved.

Rebecca Long-Bailey said further talks were taking place in the coming week. One of the key sticking points is a customs union, which Labour has called for but the government says is at odds with its intention to have an independent trade policy.

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"The discussions so far have been productive, we have gone into a lot of detail ... but as yet we haven't seen the government move on any of their red lines," Ms Long-Bailey told Sky News. "We want to see hard and fast movement on those red lines as quickly as possible."

The government wants Britain to leave the European Union (EU) before May 23, when it is due to take part in European Parliament elections.

Brandon Lewis, the chairman of Mrs May's Conservatives, said the government's priority was to not have to fight that election. "There is still time for Parliament to approve that agreement so that we don't fight those elections," he told the BBC.

Separately, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Sunday that the outcome of talks between Mrs May's government and the Labour Party to break the deadlock over Britain's exit from the EU could be known in the coming week.

"This week will be very important. We will have the results of negotiations between the Labour Party and Theresa May's government. Are these talks going to yield something?"

Mr Barnier said on LCI television that the talks between the Labour Party and the British government do not call into question the 600-page withdrawal deal that was negotiated between the bloc and the British government. "The two parties agree that the deal we have is the only one possible... the deal we have reached is non-negotiable. "

Mr Barnier added: "Mrs May agrees, so too (Labour Party leader) Jeremy Corbyn. What we could negotiate and improve, is the political declaration that defines our future relationship with Britain."

Asked if voters in Britain will take part in the upcoming EU-wide parliamentary elections at the end of May, Mr Barnier said yes, if no agreement is reached before the elections.

"Legally every EU member state, which is the case of Britain until they leave, must organise elections, if only to protect the rights of citizens, including Europeans who have the right to vote in London," Mr Barnier noted.

"I understand that there is a certain incomprehension, but it is the law, it is the European treaty that applies," he said, adding that if Britain leaves on Oct 31 as planned, its Members in the European Parliament will leave the European Parliament too. REUTERS