Labour MPs defy Jeremy Corbyn to hold Brexit talks with Government

Posted On: 
21st January 2019

A group of Labour MPs have defied Jeremy Corbyn’s order to snub Brexit talks with ministers until Theresa May rules out leaving the EU without a deal.

Chuka Umunna was among a cohort of Labour MPs to meet with senior Government figures
PA Images

The Prime Minister last week vowed to engage with the opposition in an attempt at building a cross-party consensus that could push her deal through following its resounding Commons defeat.

Mrs May said MPs, who last Tuesday inflicted a defeat by 230 votes, “have a responsibility to identify a way forward that can secure the backing of the House”.

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But Mr Corbyn said neither he nor his colleagues could work with Mrs May’s team until their demand, which the PM has refused to concede on, was met.

“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 said.

He later wrote a letter to the PM outlining the party's position and issued a message to Labour MPs to "respect" it and "refrain from engagement".

However, in a fresh blow to the Labour leader's authority, pro-EU MPs Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Luciana Berger and Gavin Shuker today met with Mrs May’s de facto deputy, David Lidington, and her chief of staff, Gavin Barwell.

It comes hours before Mrs May is due to update MPs on how she plans to negotiate changes to her agreement with Brussels ahead of a fresh Commons vote on it on 29 January.

Mr Umunna, who is among Labour's advocates for a second EU referendum, told the Guardian: “The Labour MPs who are part of this delegation – obviously we were instructed not to meet with the government, but you’ve got to put the national interest first, the party politics to one side.

“We were not going to pass up the opportunity to press our case for a people’s vote today.”

In response to speculation that Mrs May would end cross-party talks in favour of reaching out to hardline Tories and the DUP, he added: “The fact that we’re here illustrates that the government is not in control of this process.”

Arch-Remainer Tory MP Anna Soubry, who was also part of the delegation, said: “This now has to get into parliament and we have to take control of things.”