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Brexit: Govt has ‘no red lines’ in talks with Labour – Hammond | Politics News

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Chancellor Philip Hammond has said the Government has “no red lines” as they hold crunch Brexit talks with Labour.

Speaking at a meeting of finance ministers in Romania, Mr Hammond said there may be an “exchange” of text with Labour on Saturday, adding that “we are holding every possibility open”.

He said: “We should be open to listen to suggestions that others have made.

“Some people in the Labour Party are making other suggestions to us, of course we have to be prepared to discuss them.

“Our approach to these discussions with Labour is that we have no red lines, we will go into these talks with an open mind and discuss everything with them in a constructive fashion.

“I am optimistic that we will reach some form of agreement with Labour.”

Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey leaving the cabinet office in Whitehall, London.
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Shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey leaving the cabinet office

The comments run at odds with the Labour Party’s account of the talks, which appeared to stall on Friday night.

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said the government had refused to change the text of the Political Declaration – the document that outlines the UK’s planned future trading relationship with the EU.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “We engaged in these talks in good faith. Keir Starmer has written to the government to say he wants to continue the talks, so in that sense they are going on.

“There is concern that the government doesn’t want to alter the Political Declaration.”

She added: “The government perhaps has to show a little more flexibility than it seems to have done so far.”

Downing Street said serious proposals had been made and it was prepared to change the wording of the deal to reach a compromise.

But splits in the Conservative Party over what approach to take to Brexit throws doubt on whether those negotiating with Labour have as much leeway as the chancellor suggests.

Mr Hammond is not part of the negotiating team and while he may have an open mind to the talks, others in the cabinet will want the government’s red lines to remain as indelible as ever.

The Brexit Secretary appears ready to leave without a deal
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Stephen Barclay has been involved in the Brexit talks

Speaking to Sky News earlier in the week, one government source said efforts were under way behind the scenes to stop negotiators agreeing to the key Labour demand of a customs union.

“We’re fighting the good fight,” the source said.

A customs union would mean no tariffs on imports and exports with the EU, but it would make it much more difficult for the UK to strike its own trade deals with other countries.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (centre), shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey in his office in the Houses of Parliament
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Jeremy Corbyn (centre), shadow Brexit secretary Keir Starmer and shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey in parliament

On Friday night, Labour sources said they were suspicious about the lack of cabinet resignations that would be expected if the prime minister was serious about moving towards a closer trading relationship with the EU.

Mr Hammond also risks stoking more tension with cabinet colleagues and Brexiteers in his party.

Earlier this week, he faced a backlash after suggesting another public referendum on Brexit was a “perfectly credible proposition”.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson dismissed the claim, saying “there is no need for any other referendum”.

Saturday’s intervention by the chancellor may just be an attempt to love bomb Labour into submission, and get them back to the negotiating table.

But for those in the room, the delicate state of the Conservative Party may mean they feel they are negotiating with one hand tied behind their back.

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