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Brexit news: Prime Minister Theresa May changes course on Brexit



British Prime Minister Theresa May is gambling on a new plan to break the Brexit stalemate.

May announced Tuesday she would seek a longer extension from the European Union to a no-deal Brexit on April 12. she would meet with opposition Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn to try to come up with a compromise Brexit plan.

"Today, I am taking action to break the logjam," May said in a speech Tuesday. “I am offering to sit down with the leader of the opposition and to try to agree on a plan – that we would both stick to – to ensure that we leave the European Union and that we do so with a deal.”

May added that she would ask the EU to postpone the Brexit deadline until May 22. That would allow the UK to avoid taking part in the European parliamentary elections starting May 23, while still giving her time to forge a compromise deal and win approval for it from the UK Parliament.

May's speech definitely shows a change in strategy, though whether it will really solve Brexit or just lead to another stunning disaster is absolutely unclear.

But it's still significant. May's overtures toward Labor almost certainly increases the odds of following Brexit, in which the UK would stay closely aligned with EU rules on trade (details still to be determined, of course).

And it suggests that May is prepared to abandon here "red lines" ̵

1; terms she's previously said the UK would not accept – that she has rigidly stuck throughout the Brexit negotiations up to this point.

The only problem? It may be too little, too late

What to do of May's speech

May seem to be giving up on getting the support of hardline Brexiteers in her party, who will reject any plan that promises close ties between the UK and the EU after Brexit happens. These members of this party are also unlikely to quietly resign themselves to May's new strategy.

So there's going to be backlash – it's just not clear what form it will take. A report in the Guardian suggested some rebel conservatives would join the opposition in a no-confidence vote to remove May from power rather than accepting a soft Brexit or long delay. And that was before May's speech on Tuesday

Another question is whether this pivot is too little, too late. May have made more aggressive overtures to the Labor at the start of the Brexit negotiations more than two years ago; instead, she's making the effort with less than two weeks to go until the UK's departure date.

Corbyn said Tuesday that he would be "very happy to meet" May, although he didn't really sound that enthusiastic about it.

"We recognize that she has made a move, I recognize my responsibility to represent the people that supported Labor in the last election and the people who didn't support Labor but nevertheless want certainty and security for their own future," Corbyn The Press Association news agency, "and based on which we will meet and we will have those discussions."

So it's a start. But Corbyn and the Labor Party are going to come forward with their own demands, and May said little in her speech about how far she is willing to go to reach a compromise.

May did say any deal would require Parliament to pass here Brexit withdrawal agreement – the divorce settlement – and that the focus of any discussions will be on shaping the future EU-UK relationship. And any agreement May and Corbyn reach still has the support of a divided Parliament, which has also had trouble making up its mind of late.

Let's not forget about the European Union. EU leaders will have to go along with any plan, both when it comes to agreeing to the UK's approach to a future relationship and on granting the UK another Brexit extension.

EU leaders have already laid out a clear timetable for the UK: The EU offered May an extension until May 22 only if the Brexit deal last week, which it failed to do. The EU said the UK could still seek a longer delay, but one that would probably be many months and required to participate in European parliamentary elections.

May wants to avoid European elections because it's politically unpalatable among Brexit supporters. But it's not clear if this new strategy – whip up a tweaked deal, then get it through Parliament in a month – is something the EU would back without reservations or conditions.

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, urged patience . But that patience has already been tested among EU leaders.

May's speech might offer a potential breakthrough on settling the EU-UK breakup – or it might deviate to more. This is Brexit, after all. The odds of something going sideways are, as always, high.


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