Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn have held a first round of talks on a possible compromise Brexit deal, with both sides describing the meeting as “constructive”.
The pair sat down for face-to-face discussions after the prime minister’s dramatic Downing Street announcement that she was willing to seek a cross-party agreement to break the logjam.
But while Number 10 and Labour both issued positive statements in the wake of the talks, Mr Corbyn sounded a slightly more downbeat assessment of the meeting.
He described it as “useful but inconclusive”, adding: “There hasn’t been as much change as I expected but we will have further discussions tomorrow [Thursday] to explore technical issues.”
Mr Corbyn added that he put forward Labour’s view that “we want to achieve a customs union with the European Union, we want to have access to the market and, in particular, we discussed the dynamic regulatory alignment that is guaranteeing European regulations as a minimum on the environment as well as consumer and employment rights”.
He reiterated his view that a second referendum should be held to stop either a no-deal Brexit or “leaving on a bad deal”.
The major shift in strategy from the prime minister – which also includes seeking another delay to Brexit beyond 12 April – has provoked fury in her party.
Two ministers quit the government and a host of backbenchers used Prime Minister’s Questions to express their anger.
Wales minister Nigel Adams said the decision to offer talks with Labour was a “grave error”.
The close ally of Boris Johnson said in his resignation letter to Mrs May: “It now seems that you and your cabinet have decided that a deal cooked up with a Marxist who has never once in his political life put British interests first is better than no-deal. I profoundly disagree with this approach.”
Chris Heaton-Harris quit as a Brexit minister, saying his role in the department overseeing no-deal preparations had been made “irrelevant” by Mrs May’s determination to avoid such a scenario at all costs.
The prime minister told MPs that the purpose of the meeting was “to look at those areas we agree on”.
“I think we both want to deliver leaving the EU with a deal,” she said.
“I think we both want to protect jobs. I think we both want to ensure that we end free movement. I think we both recognise the importance of the withdrawal agreement.
“What we want to do now is find a way forward that can command the support of this House and deliver on Brexit, deliver on the result of the referendum and ensure that people can continue to have trust in their politicians doing what they ask us to do.”
As well as holding talks with Mr Corbyn, the prime minister met with Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.
There was a glimmer of good news for Mrs May, with MPs failing in a bid to take control of the Commons timetable on Monday for a third round of indicative votes on Brexit alternatives.
In a remarkable turn of events not seen in the chamber since the early 1990s, Speaker John Bercow had to break a 310-310 tie.
He cast his vote with the noes, in line with parliamentary precedent.
The parliamentary reprieve could be short-lived, however, with MPs currently debating a bill from Sir Oliver Letwin and Yvette Cooper which would force the prime minister to seek a further Brexit delay to avoid a no-deal exit on 12 April.
Within Labour, the debate about the party’s position on a second referendum continues to rage.
Frontbencher Emily Thornberry has made it clear she wants there to be a public vote on any deal that is approved by parliament.
Her shadow cabinet colleague Rebecca Long-Bailey was more lukewarm on the prospect, telling Sky News earlier: “If we get exactly what we want and we get a good strong deal then I would struggle to find a reason to put that to a public vote.”
On the subject of another delay to Brexit, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the EU would accept an extension to 22 May if the UK approved the withdrawal agreement by a “viable majority” before 12 April.
Speaking in Brussels, he said a no-deal Brexit next week was becoming “more and more likely”, adding: “April 12 is the final date for possible approval.
“If the House of Commons does not adopt a stance before that date no short-term extension will be possible.”