Jeremy Corbyn will meet leaders of Westminster parties to try to break the Brexit deadlock this week – although he will not attend a joint cross-party summit due to be held today.
In a major shift, the Labour leader wrote to his Westminster counterparts in the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party calling for urgent meetings to find a solution to Theresa May’s “failed” Brexit negotiations.
In his letter, he said he was keen to find common ground with supporters of other plans.
And yesterday Mr Corbyn said: “I look forward to more meetings this week so that we can do what the government should have started two years ago – namely reach out, engage and listen to different views and find a consensus on Brexit which helps bring our country back together.”
However, it seems that Mr Corbyn will hold talks only on his own terms and will not attend a joint cross-party meeting today.
Ian Blackford, Vince Cable, Liz Saville Roberts and Caroline Lucas are all believed to have accepted Mr Corbyn’s invitation for separate meetings, but sources say he will not attend their joint meeting today to discuss moving forward with a second EU referendum, with Remain on the ballot paper.
Mr Blackford said Mr Corbyn had declined invitations to talk for the past two years. The SNP’s Westminster leader said: “It is now clear beyond doubt that there is no such thing as a good Brexit and Westminster remains deeply divided.
“The best and most democratic way forward is to put the decision back to the people in a second EU referendum, with Remain on the ballot paper.
“I look forward to continuing discussions with the other Westminster party leaders on holding a second EU referendum, with the option to remain.
“I hope Jeremy Corbyn will now join us.”
The meeting on a second EU vote comes as Parliament awaits a potential third vote on Mrs May’s deal, with the embattled Prime Minister again facing calls for her to go.
However, she could still duck another showdown on her withdrawal agreement, after Cabinet ministers said another vote would not be held unless Mrs May was confident of overturning last week’s overwhelming defeat.
Unless the 149-vote humiliation can be reversed, she would be forced to seek a long extension to the Article 50 process, with the UK required to elect MEPs in May, Chancellor Philip Hammond said.
The possibility of Brexit being delayed or overturned in a second referendum is swinging some Eurosceptics reluctantly behind the deal before the third vote on the package.
But so far the number of Tories publicly switching positions has amounted to a trickle rather than the flood the Prime Minister needs as she seeks 75 more votes for her deal.
Despite the threat, former Cabinet minister Esther McVey said it was time the Prime Minister made a “dignified departure” – and even suggested she would stand as the next Conservative leader “if there were enough people who supported me”.
The Conservative MP for Dover, Charlie Elphicke, said there needed to be “a change of leadership” for him to support the deal.
He added: “We need a new face and a new team to take us forward to the future relationship.”
As part of the effort to put pressure on Tory hardliners and the DUP to shift its position and support the deal, both Mr Hammond and International Trade Secretary Liam Fox made clear there might not be a third vote if it looked likely to fail again.
However, the Government’s emphasis on talks with the DUP has led to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon claiming “ten DUP MPs currently have more influence over the future of Scotland than our own national Parliament”. Mr Blackford said the situation was undemocratic.