British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to meet opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn to thrash out a Brexit compromise, a gamble that could finally see a European Union divorce deal agreed but also tear her party apart.
After her EU withdrawal deal was rejected three times by lawmakers, with parliament and her Conservative Party hopelessly divided over Brexit, May said on Tuesday she would reach out to Corbyn in a bid to break the impasse.
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The UK was supposed to leave the EU last Friday, but three years after Britons backed leaving the bloc in a referendum, it is still unclear how, when or even if it will do so.
May has been unable to persuade a hardcore eurosceptic group of her own lawmakers to back the divorce agreement she struck with the EU because they argued it did not provide a decisive break with Europe.
Her decision to seek another short delay to the current Brexit date of April 12 and turn instead for support from Labour, which wants to stay in a customs union with the EU, may make a "soft" Brexit more likely - one that keeps Britain's economy closely aligned to the world's biggest trading bloc.
"I personally think a customs union is highly undesirable," Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay told BBC radio.
"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."
May's decision to approach Corbyn, a veteran socialist deeply disliked by many Conservatives and mocked by May herself as unfit to govern, still leaves many questions unanswered.
European Council President Donald Tusk said the bloc should be patient with Britain as May tries to find a way forward but it was not certain how European leaders would view her request.
As it stands, Britain will still leave the EU on April 12 without a deal, something many Conservative lawmakers would like to happen but a scenario businesses fear could wreak chaos and cause huge economic damage.
Corbyn, who voted against joining the bloc in 1975, has previously set out a series of demands he wanted May to agree to before he would back her deal.
"Labour has put forward our proposals to ensure there is a customs union with the EU, access to vital markets and protections of our standards of consumer, environmental and workers' rights," he said on Tuesday.
However, many Labour supporters want the party to throw its weight behind a second referendum, while some Labour lawmakers from areas that voted strongly to leave the EU are fearful they will be viewed as betraying such voters if they do not strongly back Brexit.
The Democratic Unionist Party, the small Northern Irish party on whose support May relies on to govern, were wary of her plans.
"It remains to be seen if sub-contracting out the future of Brexit to Jeremy Corbyn, someone whom the Conservatives have demonised for four years, will end happily," the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said in a statement.