Brexit: Caretaker government hopes 'dead' amid opposition row

Opposition sources have warned that efforts to form a government of national unity are effectively “dead” amid a deepening impasse over who would serve as caretaker Prime Minister.

Nicola Sturgeon stepped into the growing row between opposition parties at Westminster over tactics to confront Boris Johnson, telling Labour and the Lib Dems to “grow up” and compromise.

The latest meeting between leaders and senior MPs from the main opposition parties seeking to block a no deal Brexit again failed to reach agreement either on moves to seize control of the parliamentary timetable, or staging an early vote of no confidence to oust Mr Johnson from power.

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What is the disagreement about?

Disagreement centres on Labour and the Lib Dems’ failure to agree who would lead a caretaker government that would confirm a delay to Brexit before calling a general election, with Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson refusing to support Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister, and Labour ruling out anyone else entering Number 10.

Posting on Twitter, the First Minister said: “Both Labour and the Lib Dems need to grow up”.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson (left) and SNP leader Ian Blackford (right) are at odds over tactics to stop a no-deal Brexit

Criticising Mr Corbyn’s refusal to stand aside in favour of a ‘neutral’ figure like veteral Labour MP Dame Margaret Beckett, she went on: “None of these judgments are easy just now, granted - but I doubt that him prioritising Labour Party interests while the UK crashes out of the EU with no deal will play well for them in an election either.”

Parties 'too fixed' on short-term interests

Speaking to the BBC, she added: “I think the other parties are getting too fixated on short-term, narrow party-political interests, like who would be in a leadership position in a temporary government - a temporary government which if this strategy were to be followed would be in office for a matter of days, for the sole purpose of securing an extension to the Article 50 process.

“I think parties including the SNP... should be willing and prepared to compromise. We should be willing to put our narrow interests aside for a period for the greater good, which is avoiding a no-deal Brexit, which would be catastrophic for people the length and breadth of the UK.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

“So I hope we can still get to the position where opposition parties can do that, but time is running out.”

Breakthrough needed within a fortnight

Opposition whips will continue to meet to discuss parliamentary tactics, but one source close to the talks warned that efforts to form a national unity caretaker government were effectively "dead" unless a breakthrough is reached in the two weeks left before Mr Johnson must request a Brexit delay from the EU under the terms of legislation passed by MPs fighting a no-deal.

Following Monday’s meeting a senior Lib Dem source said: “The position Jeremy Corbyn is taking is that we can have an emergency Government, but only if he gets to lead it.“They know they don’t have the numbers, but they are insistent they won’t work with anyone else.

“Their total unwillingness to work with anyone else makes the Labour Party the biggest barrier to stopping no-deal.”

An SNP source said: “Its looks like it’ll be another wasted week with no action - while the clock runs against us.

“The Lib Dems are still squabbling over who gets to be interim Prime Minister, and as a result we are no further forward - and Boris Johnson is still in office.”