Sunday 14 April 2019 12:21 pm

MPs could be forced to choose a Brexit option if talks with Labour fail, says May’s deputy

Parliament could be forced to decide which Brexit option to go for if talks with the Labour party fall through, Theresa May's deputy has said.

David Lidington, who is leading the talks with Labour on subjects such as environmental standards, workers rights and the security relationship with the EU, said the discussions were going to continue next week but that they wouldn't last months.

"I don't think this question can be allowed to drag out for much longer," he said.

Asked by the BBC what would happen if the two parties failed to reach a compromise, Lidington said: "As government we've always made it clear that while we'll do our best to try to reach a compromise with the main opposition party… if that doesn't work then what we'll want to move towards is to put before parliament a set of options with a system for making a choice, and parliament actually having to come to a preferred option rather than voting against everything."

Read more: Cross-party Brexit talks 'positive', says shadow chancellor

Previous rounds of so-called indicative votes – where MPs cast a non-binding vote in favour of their preferred Brexit option – have ended in failure as parliament failed to reach a consensus on anything.

One option that was narrowly defeated in the customs union was Ken Clarke's motion for a permanent customs union failed by just three votes earlier this month.

A customs union is thought to be the area where the Tories may find compromise with Labour.

When asked if the government would drop its opposition to the customs union, which Labour supports, Lidington said he thought it was possible to find a "mechanism" where Britain could keep the benefits of the customs union while having the ability to pursue an independent trade policy.

"What we have found in terms of objectives… there is fair bit that both parties would have in common," he said.

"I don't want to compromise what is at the moment a space where we are testing with the opposition, and they are testing with us, particular ways in which we could move forward."

Read more: Hammond says parliament likely to vote again on Brexit referendum

Meanwhile, former Tory leader and Brexit supporter Iain Duncan Smith told Sky News his party's failure tp deliver Brexit was the reason for its dip in the polls. A poll for the Sunday Telegraph found the Tories would lose 59 seats if there was a general election and hand victory to the Labour party. 

Addressing the European elections, which are due to take place on 23 May, he said: "We simply can’t fight the Euro elections. I gather dozens of Conservative association chairmen have now written a letter to the Prime Minister, saying that they aren’t prepared to fight Euro elections. It would be an utter disaster for us, a disaster for the country."