Jeremy Corbyn snubs Theresa May offer to work together on Brexit unless PM rules out no-deal

Posted On: 
16th January 2019

Jeremy Corbyn tonight issued a withering snub to Theresa May after the Prime Minister reached out to the Labour leader to build a cross-party consensus over Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn responded in the Commons after Theresa May reached out
Credit: 
Parliament TV

The Leader of the Opposition said he would not begin talks with the Conservative boss unless she takes a no-deal departure from the EU off the table.

It came after a Labour motion of no-confidence in the Government was comfortably defeated by 325 votes to 306 - just 24 hours after the Brexit deal clinched by Mrs May was emphatically rejected by MPs.

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In the immediate aftermath of the result tonight, Mrs May surprised the Commons when she said she would begin talks with opposition leaders about Brexit and hoped to have the first meetings tonight.

She said it was her duty to deliver on the “solemn promise” to respect the EU referendum result, and noted that MPs “have a responsibility to identify a way forward that can secure the backing of the House”.

“To that end, I have proposed a series of meetings between senior parliamentarians and representatives of the Government over the coming days,” she said.

“And I would like to invite the leaders of parliamentary parties to meet with me individually, and I would like to start these meetings tonight.”

But the House was further stunned when Mr Corbyn refused to play ball unless the Government ruled out a no-deal Brexit - which Mrs May has insisted remains on the table.

He said: “Last night the House rejected the Government’s conclusion of its negotiations with the European Union emphatically. A week ago, the House voted to condemn the idea of a no-deal Brexit.

“Before there can be any positive discussions about the way forward, the Government must remove clearly once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit from the EU and all the chaos that would come as a result of that.”

He asked the Prime Minister to confirm there and then that no-deal would not be an option - but she failed to respond. A No 10 spokesman confirmed no-deal would have to remain a possibility.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn meanwhile explained: “Of course Jeremy is prepared to talk to the Prime Minister.

"But if we’re talking about substantive talks on how to resolve the crisis over Brexit and how to find a majority for a deal in Parliament, then the starting point needs to be that no deal is off the table."

He added that refusing to rule out no-deal was “effectively a blackmail and makes meaningful talks impossible”.

Lib Dem MP Ed Davey also urged Mrs May to rule out a no-deal Brexit before cross-party talks can begin.

OPPERMAN BREAKS RANKS

It came after Pensions Minister Guy Opperman broke ranks with the Government to call for Mrs May to find a consensus with the Labour party - which could include giving in to its demand to remain in a customs union.

“The bottom line is there has to be a reaching out to all political parties, which includes the Labour leadership and the key Labour backbenchers of Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn and the like,” he told ITV.

He said a “minor tweak to the pre-existing deal” would not be enough to win support in the Commons unless the Government was willing to get the Labour party on board.

And he said the Withdrawal Agreement could stay the same, but the Future Partnership, setting out the trade relationship to be agreed between the UK and EU, would have to change.

Work and Pensions Secretary Amber Rudd also suggested the Government could think big in a bid to secure Labour votes for the Brexit deal.

"It seems to me that everything has to be on the table because the priority is to find a negotiated settlement so we can leave the European Union," she said.

The Prime Minister has vowed to present a Brexit plan B to the Commons on Monday after her deal was rejected by 230 votes - the biggest defeat for a Government in history.

Analysis by the Government shows that leaving the EU without a deal on 29 March would deal an economic blow to the nation.