Brexit was plunged into fresh chaos on Wednesday after Jeremy Corbyn refused Theresa May’s invitation for a meeting to thrash out how to break the deadlock among MPs.
The Prime Minister made the offer after her government survived a vote of no confidence by MPs, saying she wanted to work with opposition leaders to end the Brexit stalemate.
While the leader of the Lib Dems and the Westminster leaders of the SNP and Plaid Cymru held meetings with May, Corbyn rebuffed the approach, saying he would only speak to the Prime Minister if she ruled out the UK leaving the EU without a deal.
Speaking in the Commons, the Labour leader said: “Before there can be any positive discussions about the way forward the government must remove clearly once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a ‘no deal’ Brexit from the EU.”
A Downing Street spokesperson refused to say that ‘no deal’ would be taken off the table, saying: “The prime minister has been very clear that the British public voted to leave the European Union.
“We want to leave with a deal but she is determined to deliver on the verdict of the British public and that is to leave the EU on 29 March this year.”
A spokesman for Corbyn confirmed the Labour leader would not be meeting with the PM until that concession was given.
He said: “Of course Jeremy is prepared to talk to the Prime Minister.
"But if we’re talking about substantive talks on how to resolve the crisis over Brexit and how to find a majority for a deal in parliament, then the starting point needs to be that no deal is off the table.”
The spokesman said not removing ‘no deal’ is “effectively a blackmail”.
As well as the Westminster leaders of opposition parties, May will hold meetings with backbenchers on Thursday and over the weekend in the hope of engineering a breakthrough.
A Downing Street spokesperson was clear that the principles of May’s deal – including ending free movement of people and creating an independent trade policy – would be the basis of the talks, but would not go so far as to describe them as “red lines”.
Work and pensions secretary Amber Rudd suggested all aspects of the deal were back in play in order to win over enough MPs to get an agreement through parliament, saying: "It seems to me that everything has to be on the table because the priority is to find a negotiated settlement so we can leave the European Union.”
The most likely compromise is on membership of a customs union with the EU – a move supported by the Labour frontbench.
However, hardline Brexiters would be furious as it would leave the UK unable to strike independent trade deals after Brexit.