Opposition leaders to meet Jeremy Corbyn in bid to block a no-deal Brexit

PUBLISHED: 14:50 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 11:34 23 August 2019

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

Opposition parties have agreed to meet next week to discuss plans to block a no-deal Brexit in parliament, but some MPs have refused to join.

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Jeremy Corbyn wrote to senior opposition leaders in Westminster and key Tory Remain-backing rebels calling for a meeting aimed at stopping Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.

In his letter of invitation, he wrote: "The country is heading into a constitutional and political storm, so it is vital that we meet urgently, before parliament returns."

Corbyn has scrapped a four-day trip to Ghana for the meeting. Before he abandoned the "fact-finding" trip, he had come under intense fire for appearing not to be focused on Labour's policy of preventing a no-deal Brexit.

He had also received criticism for offering to be a "caretaker" PM in proposals to bring a no-confidence vote to Boris Johnson and to trigger a general election. Critics, including Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, doubted that he would be able to attract a majority - sparking new doubts about the ability of the Remain camp to agree enough to take action.

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But Corbyn's letter now appears to be an invitation to come back to the drawing board, and the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Change UK, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party have all agreed to attend.

Corbyn also invited five Remain-backing former Conservative ministers. So far, however, Tory MP Dame Caroline Spelman and independent MP Nick Boles have said they are not willing to meet him.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson has said she will meet Mr Corbyn, despite saying last week that her party could not support a government of national unity with him at the helm.

In a tweet, she said: "I look forward to discussing how we can stop the disastrous consequences of no-deal and will be asking Jeremy Corbyn if he is open to all options to prevent it. We have to focus on plans that have a chance of success."

The SNP's Westminster leader, Ian Blackford, has also agreed to the meeting.

On Wednesday, Blackford said: "Boris Johnson is taking the UK towards a Brexit disaster. With time running out, it is now vital that MPs take every step necessary to stop Brexit and block a catastrophic no-deal."

Plaid Cymru's Commons leader, Liz Saville-Roberts, said she would meet Corbyn, but added: "In this crisis, policy comes before personality. If Corbyn fails to offer workable plan, others must be given the opportunity."

Change UK leader Anna Soubry and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas have also confirmed they will attend.

Boles, however, rejected the Labour leader's invitation.

The former Tory minister, who quit the party in April over its approach to Brexit, warned Corbyn not to pursue a vote of no confidence in the government which could lead to a general election before legislation had been passed to mandate the prime minister to request an extension to Article 50.

Boles was one of the MPs who coordinated efforts to block a no-deal Brexit on March 29.

He said: "I therefore urge you and the leaders of the other opposition parties to focus on legislative measures to stop no-deal Brexit on October 31.

"This will necessarily involve doing what we did earlier this year: seizing control of the order paper and passing an act of parliament that compels the prime minister to secure the agreement of the EU Council to a further extension to Article 50.

"I am confident that, with goodwill and genuine cross-party co-operation, we can do this again."

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Writing to the Labour leader, Boles said he would not be able to support "any government in which you were prime minister" and said "several" other opposition MPs had said the same.

Dame Caroline Spelman's office told the PA news agency that she will not be attending Corbyn's meeting.

Former Tory ministers Dominic Grieve, Sir Oliver Letwin and Guto Bebb also received an invitation from the Labour leader. PA has contacted these MPs but has yet to receive a response.

The meeting is scheduled to take place on August 27 at 12pm.

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