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May and Corbyn are checking their tea isn’t poisoned

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Grand coalitions are described in Germany as the Elefantenehe – a clumsy marriage of two large creatures forced to get along well together and sharing a dwindling amount of hay. A hasty attempt at elephantine speed-dating is under way as Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May sit down for another bout of “technical talks” on a co-operation over Brexit.

A dilatory mood hangs over the meetings in Downing Street for good reason. The pow-wows are sticking plasters for the internal wounds of two leaders who have scant intention of conducting the business of Brexit together and every intention of perfecting their blame game. May is sensitive to the allegation that she failed to “reach across the aisle” early on, which is true in the sense that pragmatic Tories and centrist Labourites could have helped avoid the present implosion and the risk of no deal, but is not quite so simple, given the schisms inside the Labour Party over how to deal with its large Leave vote.

For her part, May is effectively in hock to Parliament’s vote to forestall a no-deal eventuality this Friday (when it would technically occur, the UK having failed to leave on March 29). She has very little agency left that is not constrained by MPs or European leaders.

Therefore, it is worth, as one No 10 insider sighs, “putting the kettle on”, for Team Jeremy. Cabinet Office insiders were, I hear, amused by the body language of their visitors after the inevitable ham sandwiches and dry cake spread had been offered. “Poker faces from May and Corbyn on arrival, Rebecca Long-Bailey........

© Evening Standard