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Britain's Labour Party Sees Brexit Standstill As An Opportunity

Sep 26, 2018
Originally published on September 29, 2018 10:12 am
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

To England now where Britain's negotiations to leave the EU are at a standstill. Prime Minister Theresa May's ruling Conservative Party is in chaos, and Britain's opposition Labour Party smells blood. At their annual meeting in Liverpool today, Labour Party leaders were spoiling for an election they say they can win. NPR's Frank Langfitt reports from Liverpool.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION")

T. REX: (Singing) But you won't fool the children of the revolution.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: The hall was brimming with excitement. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn attacked Prime Minister May for failing to come up with a Brexit plan that either the European Union or even some in her own Tory party can support.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEREMY CORBYN: If Parliament votes down a Tory deal or the government fails to reach any deal at all, we would press for a general election.

(APPLAUSE)

LANGFITT: If the Conservatives can't deliver, Corbyn said, Labour deserves a chance.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

CORBYN: If you can't negotiate that deal, then you need to make way for a party that can and will.

(APPLAUSE)

LANGFITT: May is in a terrible jam. The European Union rejected her Brexit plan last week because it calls for keeping a key benefit of EU membership - the tariff-free flow of goods - while avoiding the obligations of membership such as accepting the free flow of EU workers. Meanwhile, some in May's own party oppose her plan because they want a sharp break with the European Union. If she can't get a deal, her government could collapse, potentially leaving Labour with a big opportunity. Helen Adkins is a Labour Party councilor in Leamington Spa, a town about 90 miles northwest of London.

HELEN ADKINS: I think we're ready. We're just ready for government. It just feels like it's just that one more step and we're there. And I think Jeremy Corbyn this time next year will be prime minister.

LANGFITT: But Theresa May says she has no intention of calling an election. And in recent polls, the Conservative Party has maintained a narrow lead. The Conservatives gather next week in the English city of Birmingham for their own annual meeting, which is expected to be far more fraught and acrimonious. Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Liverpool.

(SOUNDBITE OF RODRIGO Y GABRIELA'S "THE SOUNDMAKER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.