Ministers have been in discussions with Labour heavyweights including shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer for the best part of a month in an effort to find a way forward after her withdrawal agreement was voted down for the third time in the House of Commons. As a result, Mrs May was forced to travel to Brussels to request a further delay to the implementation of Article 50, until October 31. Deputy Prime Minister David Lidington struck an optimistic note yesterday when he said he was “encouraged” after sensing sensing agreement on the need to “inject greater urgency”.
Meanwhile Downing Street also sought to put a positive spin on the situation, describing negotiations as “serious and constructive”.
Talks are focused on striking a cross-party deal which would allow the two sides to back legislation required to deliver Brexit in accordance with the result of the 2016 referendum.
However, the Government and Labour are also considering the idea of another round of parliamentary votes on different Brexit options, in the event that a cross-party deal cannot be reached.
Pressure is mounting on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to commit the party to a confirmatory referendum on whatever deal emerges from the talks.
However, Labour are thought to be reluctant to agree to be bound by another “indicative votes” process without knowing what the outcome might be.
Mr Corbyn has also stressed his opposition to any deal which does not include a commitment to a customs union with the EU.
Were Mrs May to agree to this, she would face massive dissension within her own party.
Ministers were updated on the progress of the talks by Mrs May, Mr Lidington and Chief Whip Julian Smith at Tuesday’s cabinet meeting, Huffington Post reported.
Her official spokesman said negotiations would continue with the aim of concluding the process.
The Tories, currently languishing in the polls, are very keen to avoid taking part in European elections on May 23 and consequently sending MEPs to the European Parliament at the start of July.
Huffington Post suggested Mrs May was willing give the talks until the middle of next week before drawing a line under the process.
The spokesman told reporters: “Cabinet received an update on the Brexit talks with the opposition, including the negotiations last night which were serious and constructive.
“Further talks will now be scheduled in order to bring the process toward a conclusion.
“Cabinet also discussed the need to secure safe passage of the withdrawal agreement bill as soon as possible in order to deliver upon the result of the referendum.”
With cross-party talks on the EU Withdrawal Agreement showing little sign of progress, Theresa May’s spokesman also indicated that the parliamentary session could be extended until the Commons has ratified a Brexit deal.
Such a move would mean the parliamentary set-piece outlining the Government’s legislative agenda being postponed from the expected date in June to as late as the autumn.