BREXIT LIVE: Barnier hails soft Brexit breakthrough – EU expects May announcement IN DAYS

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EU CHIEF Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said the outcome of talks between the Tories and Labour could be emerge next week and has hinted Theresa May’s hardline approach could be about to soften.

Mr Barnier stressed the cross-party negotiations could not change the 600-page withdrawal deal negotiated between the bloc and the British government. He said: “This week will be very important. We will have the results of negotiations between the Labour Party and the Theresa May’s government. Are these talks going to yield something?”

He continued: “The two parties agree that the deal we have is the only one possible. The deal we have reached is non-negotiable.”

“Mrs May agrees, so too Jeremy Corbyn. What we could negotiate and improve, is the political declaration that defines our future relationship with Britain.”

Asked if voters in Britain will take part in the upcoming EU-wide parliamentary elections at the end of May, Mr Barnier said yes, if no agreement is reached before the elections.

He said: “Legally every EU member state, which is the case of Britain until they leave, must organise elections, if only to protect the rights of citizens, including Europeans who have the right to vote in London.

“I understand that there is a certain incomprehension, but it is the law, it is the European treaty that applies.”

3.56pm update: Corbyn faces “cowardice” claim from SNP

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford has warned Jeremy Corbyn he will be guilty of “supreme cowardice” if he fails to press for a second European referendum in Brexit talks with the UK Government.

Mr Blackford said if the cross-party negotiations were to “have any purpose” they must include the issue of a People’s Vote and urged the Labour leader to “get off the fence” and support such a ballot.

Mr Blackford issued the challenge in the midst of talks between the two parties, with embattled Prime Minister Theresa May trying to find support in the Commons for her Withdrawal Agreement.

Speaking at the SNP conference in Edinburgh, he said: “If Labour’s talks with the Prime Minister are to have any purpose, Jeremy Corbyn must press for a second EU referendum in the cross-party talks. Failure to do so will be an act of supreme cowardice.”

3.30pm update: Sturgeon claims government “no longer functioning”

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted the UK government is “no longer a functioning administration”, saying it had been “paralysed by Brexit and broken by infighting”.

The SNP leader told her party’s spring conference: “There is now no level of incompetence that is a disqualification for a place in this Tory government.

“They lack vision, policies and ability.

“They can’t even be trusted not to leak sensitive information from the National Security Council.

“This Tory government is a disgrace. It needs to go. And it needs to go now.”

12.03pm update: Lib Dems bemoan failure of pro-EU parties to unite

Liberal Democrat deputy leader Jo Swinson said it was a “shame” pro-EU parties had not been able to agree on a joint platform for the European elections.

The May 23 contest will feature Lib Dem candidates battling against would-be MEPs from Change UK and the Greens who are all explicitly calling for a second referendum.

Ms Swinson said: “I think it is a shame that those Remain-supporting parties aren’t able, weren’t able, to come to an agreement to be fighting that together.

“But the wider aim of the securing of a people’s vote to stop Brexit is one where we are very much still working together in Parliament and outside of Parliament.”

Change UK confirmed it was working with the Lib Dems in Parliament to press for a referendum.

10.52am update: Labour accuses Tories of refusing to budge on Brexit red lines

Labour has accused the Government of refusing to “move on any of their red lines” in the cross-party talks on getting a Brexit deal.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey also hit back at claims from the Conservatives that her side has been stalling, saying “we’re certainly not dragging our heels”.

She told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Honestly I think the discussions so far have been productive, they’ve gone into a lot of detail, there seems to be a willingness on both sides to move towards some form of consensus.

“But as yet we haven’t seen the Government move on any of their red lines, we’re having further discussions this week and hopefully we’ll see some movement.

“But at the moment we are focusing on the detail, where we stand in relation to our relevant positions, and where potentially we could move to.

“But we want to see hard and fast movement on those red lines as quickly as possible.”

10.33am update: Tory chiefs braced for “difficult night” ahead of local elections

Tory deputy chairwoman Helen Whately has admitted next week’s local elections “are going to be a difficult night for us” after predictions her party could lose a swath of seats amid anger over Brexit.

She acknowledged voters would get a chance to “kick the Government” and said she had seen “more anger than before” on the doorstep.

Speaking to Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday, she said: “I think there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a difficult night for us.”

She said it was down to the fact the seats which are up for grabs this time round were last contested in 2015, the “high point” for her party.

10.12am update: Lewis “understands huge frustration” among Tories

Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis said he understood the “huge frustration” of Tory members over Brexit but insisted it was still possible to avoid the EU elections if a deal can be reached.

he told BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show: ”I hope that between now and the European election polling day on May 23, if we have to have those elections, over the next few weeks I hope that Conservative members, colleagues, volunteers, activists will come to want to not just vote for, but campaign for Conservatives to get elected, because ultimately Conservative representation is better than any other party.

“I fully appreciate the huge frustration that particularly our members and councillors have that we haven’t left the EU yet and we might have to fight these elections at all. But if we do, I hope they’ll vote Conservative.”

9.30am update: Scots would back independence under no deal Brexit

A majority of people in Scotland would vote for independence if there was a no-deal Brexit, polling has suggested.

The Panelbase survey for the Sunday Times Scotland found Scots are currently 53 percent to 47 percent in favour of staying in the UK.

But support for independence appears to grow in the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal.

In that scenario, support for independence rises to 52 percent and opposition falls to 48 percent, the poll found.

9am update: Tory Party bosses warning MPs against backing Farage

Tory MPs and grassroots activists will be booted out of the party if they jump ship and back Nigel Farage in next months EU elections, according to a leaked email.

The threat of expulsion came amid speculation of mass defections to Mr Farage’s new Brexit Party as opinion polls showed support for the Conservatives in meltdown.

A leaked email to activists reads: “All party members, including elected representatives at all levels, are expected to fully support the party in all elections. Campaigning for or endorsement of any other political party is incompatible with membership of the party. The board will not hesitate to enforce these rules.”

A YouGov poll, commissioned by the anti-extremism campaign group Hope not Hate, shows the Tories have slumped to 13 percent in polling for the European elections next month and are on course to lose more than half their 19 MEPs.

The survey showed the Brexit Party on 28 percent and set to win 28 seats.