Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn will hold more meetings today to thrash out a Brexit compromise after MPs narrowly passed a law instructing the Prime Minister to ask for a delay to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.
In a dramatic evening in the Commons, MPs rushed through a bill requiring the government to ask the EU for an extension to the negotiating period to avoid the UK leaving the bloc without a deal on 12 April – winning by just one vote, 311 to 312.
A plan for MPs to hold another round of votes was thwarted after the proposal ended in a dead heat – 310 to 310 – leaving speaker John Bercow to cast a decisive vote against the motion.
The Commons may still be able to put forward the version of Brexit it supports, as the PM has promised to grant more indicative votes if the talks between her and Corbyn fail to lead to a breakthrough.
The two party leaders met in parliament for around two hours yesterday afternoon, accompanied by members of their top teams including Brexit secretary Steve Barclay and his Labour shadow, Sir Keir Starmer.
Both leaders promised to enter the talks with open minds, although Downing Street ruled out revoking Article 50 and therefore stopping Brexit.
Speaking after the meeting, Corbyn said the two “will have further discussions tomorrow to explore technical issues”.
“I put forward the view from the Labour party that we want to achieve a customs union with the EU, access to the Single Market and dynamic regulatory alignment, that is a guarantee of European regulations as a minimum on the environment, consumer and workers’ rights,” he said.
He added that he had also raised the topic of a second referendum.
The issue of a second public vote rose to the surface after a Labour spokesman said the party would only back such a move to avoid a “Tory Brexit” or no deal.
Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry wrote to all of her party’s MPs to insist any deal must be subject to a “confirmatory vote”, as any other move would be in breach of decisions made at the annual party conference.
As Labour debated whether to push for another referendum, May came under sustained criticism from her own party over the decision to enter into talks with Corbyn.
Two ministers quit their posts over May’s meeting with the Labour leader – Nigel Adams from the Welsh Office and Chris Heaton-Harris from the Brexit department – accusing her of "cooking up" a deal with a "Marxist".