Matt Hancock defends Theresa May over Labour Brexit talks


(AP) - The British government and senior opposition figures were meeting Thursday in search of a new plan on how the country leaves the European Union as Prime Minister Theresa May tried to stop her shift toward compromise from splitting her Conservative Party. It also gives Parliament the power to decide the length of the delay.

But a no-deal Brexit is still the legal default position, and could happen if the European Union refuses to grant another extension.

Meanwhile, Chancellor Philip Hammond has suggested that he expects Brussels to insist on a lengthy delay to Brexit and described a public vote to approve any final deal as "a perfectly credible proposition".

The Brexit Secretary told MPs the legislation could "increase the risk of an accidental no-deal", as it requires MPs to agree any Brexit extension the day after it is proposed by the European Council, giving no time for the Government to renegotiate the date if it is rejected.

The bill, put forward by Labour Party's Yvette Cooper, now needs to be approved by the House of Lords before it becomes law.

Corbyn, a veteran socialist campaigner whom May has repeatedly derided as unfit for office, said on Wednesday that she had not moved far enough in talks which continued, at a lower level, on Thursday.

"I said: 'Look, this is a policy of our party that we would want to pursue the option of a public vote to prevent crashing out or prevent leaving on a bad deal, '" he said.

"It is regrettable that what we have been saying for several months now is coming to pass, but that is the remorseless logic of not backing the prime minister's deal".

"I think if they want an extension, and I think this time what will be a lengthy extension, I think Britain will have to take part in the European Parliament elections in May, but at the end of the day, I think everybody will prefer the United Kingdom to stay in, rather than to actually leave". If it fails Britain faces leaving on that date without a deal.

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As Labour debated whether to push for another referendum, May came under sustained criticism from her own party over the decision to enter into talks with Corbyn.

On Wednesday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Parliament must back the exit deal with a "viable majority" by April 12 for May to get the short delay that she wants until May 22.

Speaking after the meeting, Corbyn said the two "will have further discussions tomorrow to explore technical issues".

"I'm very happy to meet the prime minister", Corbyn said after May's announcement according to The NYT.

Still, they have similar problems: Both party leaders are perilously out of sync with many of their party's legislators.

May has said that her deal will still form the basis of any new proposal, but that the political declaration on the future relationship could be altered. But he added that the "remorseless logic" of Parliament's failure to back the prime minister's withdrawal agreement with the European Union is that Britain must move toward a softer form of Brexit.

During a round of broadcast interviews, Hancock said Corbyn's support for delivering Brexit trumped other concerns about him.

Last July, when asked if he could guarantee there would be no Irish backstop in a Labour-negotiated Brexit deal, Mr Corbyn told Euronews: "There certainly wouldn't be a backstop from which you can't escape". "The government, as expressed by the prime minister, is against no deal, the European Union is against no deal, and yet it is a possibility - it is the default option". He said he would make the move if the government "proves it is incapable of commanding a majority in the House of Commons".