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Sun, 29 March 2020

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Jo Swinson agrees to no-deal Brexit talks with Jeremy Corbyn after snubbing unity government plan

Jo Swinson agrees to no-deal Brexit talks with Jeremy Corbyn after snubbing unity government plan
3 min read

Jo Swinson has agreed to hold talks on halting a no-deal Brexit with Jeremy Corbyn, just hours after rejecting a call to back him as a temporary Prime Minister.

In a partial climbdown, the Liberal Democrat leader said she was "keen" to meet with the Labour boss to discuss tactics for blocking a no-deal Brexit despite initially dismissing the plan.

Ms Swinson had come under intense pressure from fellow pro-Remain MPs to reconsider the offer after she accused the Labour leader of letting ministers "off the hook" over Brexit and suggested she did not trust him to prevent a no-deal scenario.

Her comments came after the Labour leader sent a letter to opposition leaders and pro-Remain Tory MPs urging them to back him in a "time-limited" government that would extend Article 50 and trigger a fresh general election.

But in a new letter, Ms Swinson suggested the Labour plan was "not viable" but added that "in this moment of national emergency, I stand ready to work with anyone to stop Boris Johnson and his hard-line Brexit government if it is brought before the House of Commons".

"I am ambitious for the Liberal Democracts, as you are for the Labour Party, but we are facing a national crisis and we may we need an emergency government to resolve it," she wrote.

"This isn't the time for personal agendas and political games. We cannot allow party politics to stand in the way of Members from all sides of the House of Commons working together in the national interest.

"What matters right now is a plan that works and will stop a "No Deal" Brexit."

But she urged the Labour leader to spell out how he would gather enough support for the plan after seven opposition MPs dismissed the possiblity of backing his caretaker administration.

"Regardless of how my party were to vote in those circumstances, in order for you to command the confidence of the House, at least eight Conservative MPs would need to support you in taking office. For this and other reasons, I do not believe your plan is viable," she added.

"I would be interested to know whether eight or more Conservative MPs have indicated to you that they will support you in these circumstances."

The newly-appointed Lib Dem leader also reiterated her suggestion that political grandees, such as former Tory chancellor Ken Clarke or ex-deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, could have more success in commanding the support of MPs.

"They are the most experienced Members of the House, widely respected on both sides, and neither are seeking to lead a government in the long-term. I would be interested to hear your suggestions," she wrote.

"I can understand that you would have a preference for a Labour alternative. 

"Indeed, if she can command the support of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman would be Labour's first female Prime Minister."

Ms Swinson's u-turn came after former Tory minister Guto Bebb claimed he would be supportive of Mr Corbyn's caretaker government because it would be "less damaging" than a no-deal Brexit.

Pro-Remain Tory MPs Dominic Grieve, Caroline Spelman and Oliver Letwin, plus the former Conservative MP Nick Boles have also agreed to meet with the Labour leader to discuss the plan, saying: “We agree that our common priority should be to work together in parliament to stop a no-deal Brexit and welcome your invitation to discuss the different ways this might be achieved."