Wales

Softer Brexit looking less likely, says Welsh minister

Jeremy Miles
Image caption Jeremy Miles said the breakdown of talks was "very worrying"

A "softer" form of Brexit is looking less likely after Tory-Labour talks fell apart, the Welsh Government's minister on Brexit has said.

Jeremy Miles urged MPs to take control of the process and steer the UK either towards a close relationship with the EU, or a further referendum.

The impending Conservative leadership contest may also mean Brexit will need to be extended beyond October, he said.

The collapse of the talks was "very worrying", the Labour AM said.

Mr Miles spoke ahead of Thursday's European Union election, and after a poll suggested the party could come third behind the Brexit Party and Plaid Cymru.

"Clearly... we would not be happy with that outcome if that turned out," he said.

"What appears to be happening, it seems to me, is that where parties have a simple message, that is cutting through."

Mr Miles said it was a "difficult election for all mainstream parties".

Talks between the Conservatives and Labour to find a way through the Brexit impasse in the House of Commons collapsed in May.

Jeremy Corbyn said the discussions had "gone as far as they can", and blamed what he called the government's "increasing weakness and instability".

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to set a timetable for her exit from No. 10 Downing Street after the next Brexit vote in the first week of June.

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Image caption Talks between Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn broke down earlier in May

Mr Miles said: "The truth of the matter is that it has been her lack of imagination and lack of willingness to compromise that has stymied any kind of parliamentary progress in what is a very difficult set of circumstances."

He said the Conservative leadership contest "will dominate Parliament and render the government incapable of taking any action to resolve this impasse before the summer recess".

"The House of Commons now needs to find a way of taking control of this process," he said, "and find a solution which commands majority support across the House and can deliver a real outcome".

He said Welsh ministers would find a soft Brexit - where there is a closer economic relationship with the remaining 27 states - or a further referendum acceptable. He urged MPs to find a majority for one or the other, or both.

"We recognise of course that the breakdown of the talks between the two frontbenches makes the prospect of agreeing a softer form of Brexit less likely, but that's not to say that parliament should not redouble its efforts," he said.

He added that it seems "very likely they will need to be a further extension of the Article 50 process", which currently ensures that the UK will leave on 30 October.

That had originally been a date in March, until the process was extended because the Brexit deal could not be passed in the House of Commons.

The European Parliament elections in Wales

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There are eight parties fighting for four Welsh seats in the European elections on 23 May.

Welsh Labour, the Welsh Conservatives, Plaid Cymru, the Welsh Liberal Democrats, UKIP and the Green Party are joined by Change UK and the Brexit Party.

You can find a list of candidates here.

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