Jeremy Corbyn has called on MPs opposed to a no-deal Brexit to back his attempt to form a “strictly time-limited” government, insisting he would call a General Election and campaign for a second referendum.
The Labour leader wrote to backbenchers and other opposition party leaders promising to extend Article 50 and push for “a public vote on the terms of leaving the European Union, including an option to Remain”.
The Leader of the Opposition has written to party leaders including the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson, the Green Party’s Caroline Lucas and the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, as well as prominent pro-Remain Tories such as Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin and Caroline Spelman.
Remain-supporting MPs have been plotting alternative plans for a coalition opposed to a no-deal Brexit that would not be led by Corbyn.
Senior Liberal Democrats rejected Corbyn’s plan, with Swinson calling it a “nonsense”.
“Jeremy Corbyn is not the person who is going to be able to build an even temporary majority in the House of Commons for this task – I would expect there are people in his own party and indeed the necessary Conservative backbenchers who would be unwilling to support him,” she said.
Arch Tory Remainer Grieve told City A.M.: “It’s a respectable letter, but its respectability doesn’t mean I’m going to jump and down and say ‘oh yes that’s wonderful let’s agree to it now’.”
Corbyn is looking to build support for a vote of no confidence in the government, writing that “our priority should be to work together in parliament to prevent a deeply damaging no deal [Brexit]”.
If he gets the numbers, Corbyn will then build a “caretaker government” – promising rivals it will be on a “strictly time-limited” basis.
Last week he wrote to cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill for assurances this would not result in a no-deal Brexit by default.
Until now, Labour has insisted it would only pull the trigger on a vote of confidence if it had the numbers.
Labour MP Wes Streeting said the letter “should be treated seriously by everyone committed to stopping no deal.”
However, Labour-turned-Lib Dem MP Chuka Umunna told City A.M. he was less than impressed.
“Yet again Jeremy Corbyn – a Brexiter of longstanding – is putting political interests before the cause of stopping a no-deal Brexit. It is blindingly obvious he cannot command the confidence of all his own MPs, never mind the confidence of the House of Commons.
“By demanding he lead an emergency government he knows he is kiboshing any hope it could take office and, with it, an important vehicle through which to stop us crashing off the cliff at Boris Johnson’s instigation.”
A Number 10 spokesperson said: “There is a clear choice: either Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister who will overrule the referendum and wreck the economy, or Boris Johnson as Prime Minister who will respect the referendum and deliver more money for the NHS and more police on our streets.
“This government believes the people are the masters and votes should be respected, Jeremy Corbyn believes that the people are the servants and politicians can cancel public votes they don’t like.”