Caretaker PM plan on back burner as opposition parties agree tactics to stop no-deal Brexit

PUBLISHED: 13:15 27 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:39 27 August 2019

(left to right) Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Kier Starmer, shadow leader of the House of Commons Valerie Vaz, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

(left to right) Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Kier Starmer, shadow leader of the House of Commons Valerie Vaz, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire.

Opposition parties in Westminster have agreed tactics to stop a no-deal Brexit, with proposals for a caretake prime minister put on the back burner.

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Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats leaving Millbank. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire.Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats leaving Millbank. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA Wire.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn met leaders from the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SNP and Change UK in his office - one week before MPs will return from their summer break.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said that a no-confidence vote was not the only option on the table for the opposition, and instead would look at ways to seize control of the House of Commons business to block a no-deal Brexit.

He said that he was "very supportive" of the proposals, and that it was a "plan that we can all get behind".

In a joint statement issued following the talks Westminster opposition leaders said they had agreed to further talks.

"The leaders of the opposition parties held a productive and detailed meeting on stopping a disastrous no-deal exit from the EU.

"Jeremy Corbyn outlined the legal advice he has received from shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti which calls Boris Johnson's plans to suspend parliament to force through a no-deal 'the gravest abuse of power and attack upon UK constitutional principle in living memory'.

"The attendees agreed that Boris Johnson has shown himself open to using anti-democratic means to force through no deal.

"The attendees agreed on the urgency to act together to find practical ways to prevent no-deal, including the possibility of passing legislation and a vote of no confidence.

"The party leaders agreed to further meetings."

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In a video message following the meeting, Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said: "It was a very constructive meeting. We agreed first of all that a no-deal Brexit would be a catastrophe for this country, not least because it would likely see us being asset-stripped by Trump's America.

"We also agreed that the legislative route is the most secure way forward. I stressed the need for unity. It is so important that at this critical time for our country that we find common ground to stand on, not small hills to die on.

"And in particular I stressed the fact that at heart this is a crisis about democracy, and what we need to do is find ways to give power back to the people.

"That's why as well as supporting a people's vote, I also made the case that in the other biggest issue that we face, the climate crisis, we need to find a way for people to have a say on that as well through a citizen's assembly for climate change."

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the meeting was "positive and productive".

He said: "With no mandate or majority, the numbers are stacking up against Boris Johnson and his extreme Brexit. The possibility of stopping Brexit is real and must be realised.

"Parliament must grasp this opportunity, unite to stop Boris Johnson shutting down democracy - and be ready to use all mechanisms to block a no-deal disaster, including deploying legislation as a priority.

"The SNP will play our full part and do everything we can to stop Brexit - but Scotland's future will not be left in Westminster's hands."

Anna Soubry, leader of the Independent Group for Change, tweeted: "Excellent meeting between all the opposition party leaders this morning. We agree we will work together to stop a no deal Brexit by legislation."

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson told the BBC's World at One programme, she said: "What is clear is there is a real sense of urgency. We don't have time to lose.

"We are very much looking to act as soon as possible."

She added that the opposition politicians did not discuss who would lead a caretaker government if Boris Johnson lost a vote of no confidence.

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