Ian Blackford has written to Theresa May to say that it would be “completely unacceptable” for her to propose only “cosmetic changes” to her EU withdrawal plan after it suffered a crushing defeat last week.
Blackford met the Prime Minister following a failed no-confidence motion, and said he is willing to meet her again, but will not do so until she agrees to consider extending Article 50 to delay Brexit, bringing forward legislation for a second EU referendum, and taking ‘no deal’ off the table.
The Prime Minister will deliver a statement to MPs tomorrow to present the government’s ‘plan B’ for Brexit, with MPs working across parties on a variety of options to take control of parliamentary business to stop a no-deal Brexit if a breakthrough can’t be reached.
One plan proposed by Labour’s Yvette Cooper that has broad support would give MPs a vote on extending Article 50 by up to nine months if there is no agreed deal by the end of February.
Blackford said: “Pressing ahead with another proposal that is certain to be defeated would be reckless, waste more precious time and will lead to further economic damage and uncertainty. The Prime Minister needs to fundamentally change her position.”
A Downing Street source said its principles for talks were necessary to “reach a consensus around a deal that respects the result of the referendum”.
Meanwhile, the Labour shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer put pressure on his leader by saying the party had to keep open the option of a second EU referendum.
Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s insistence that a general election was his top priority, Sir Keir said the choice lay between forcing the government to negotiate a close economic relationship with the EU based on a customs union, or a further public vote.
Speaking at the Fabian Society conference in London today, he was planning to say that with time running out before Brexit day on 29 March, it now appeared “inevitable” the government would have to apply for an extension to the Article 50 withdrawal process.
He drew the loudest cheer, however, when he said Labour stood by the commitment made at the party conference last year in Liverpool that if it was unable to force a general election all options must remain on the table – including another referendum with an option to remain in the EU.
“That is a very important commitment. It’s a commitment to you, our members and our movement. And it is one we will keep,” he said.
On the Conservative side, Sir John Major called for a free vote for MPs to break the deadlock in Parliament over the way forward on Brexit.
Major said there now needed to be a series of “indicative” votes to establish which, if any, of the various alternative proposals could command the support of a majority of MPs. As an “act of statesmanship”, he said party leaders should offer MPs a free vote to allow an “honest representation” of opinion.