Last chance for MPs to steer Brexit as May and Corbyn refuse to talk

0
Have your say

Critics of Theresa May’s Brexit deal will get a final chance to reach a consensus on an alternative at the end of this month, with the government confirming votes will be held on MPs’ proposals for how to break the deadlock on 29 January.

The announcement came as the Prime Minister and Jeremy Corbyn argued over holding talks to reach a compromise.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at St Mary in the Castle during a visit to Hastings in East Sussex yesterday, where he said his party was determined to get a deal. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

Jeremy Corbyn speaks at St Mary in the Castle during a visit to Hastings in East Sussex yesterday, where he said his party was determined to get a deal. Picture: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire

The Labour leader dismissed Mrs May’s invitation to meet as a “stunt” after asking his backbenchers not to attend talks with ministers until the government rules out a no-deal Brexit.

But senior Labour MPs Yvette Cooper and Hilary Benn broke his embargo, while Leave-supporting MP John Mann was also spotted coming out of the same building on Whitehall.

Ms Cooper defended joining the negotiations in a move that placed the trio in open conflict with Mr Corbyn after he had expressed his wishes in an email to Labour colleagues.

In a letter to the Labour leader, Mrs May said ruling out no-deal Brexit was an “impossible condition” because the government does not have the power to do so. “You have always believed in the importance of dialogue in politics,” Mrs May added.

“Do you really believe that, as well as declining to meet for talks yourself, it is right to ask your MPs not to seek a solution with the government?”

Downing Street has also refused to consider a second EU referendum or extending Article 50.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the Prime Minister’s office of talks was “a promise to listen, but only if we all agree with her”.

“The SNP won’t be complicit in more time wasting,” she posted on Twitter on Wednesday. “Rule out no deal, be prepared to extend Art 50 and agree to at least consider another referendum – then we’ll talk.”

The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier has indicated Brussels was ready to respond to any revision of Mrs May’s “red line” demands, telling MPs in Portugal: “If they change, we’ll change.”

Mr Barnier said “something has to change” to secure a divorce deal.

Some MPs met with the Prime Minister and Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay, while others saw Cabinet Office Minister David Lidington and Environment Secretary Michael Gove.

Among those arriving for talks were a group of eurosceptic Tories, including former Brexit secretary David Davis and ERG vice-chairman Steve Baker, as well as Green MP Caroline Lucas, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price and the DUP’s Nigel Dodds and Arlene Foster.

Emerging from her meeting, Mrs Foster said the issue of the Irish backstop needed to be dealt with “in a very clear way” if Brexit negotiations were to progress.

Mr Corbyn was in work at pension secretary Amber Rudd’s marginal constituency of Hastings and Rye yesterday, seeking to build momentum towards a general election despite losing a no-confidence bid on Wednesday.

The Labour leader said his party was “determined to get a deal”.

“The Prime Minister seems completely unable to grasp what has actually happened,” he said.