Tuesday 27 August 2019 12:48 pm

Opposition MPs agree tactics to stop PM's no deal Brexit

Opposition parties have ditched plans for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister, instead agreeing to seize control of the Brexit end game through a legislative takeover.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn held crunch talks in Westminster today, a week before parliament returns from recess, to try and build a consensus around him leading a caretaker government, following a vote of no confidence.

However the rebel alliance, which includes members from the Liberal Democrats, SNP, Plaid Cymru and The Independent Group for Change, is now planning to put forward legislation that they hope will prevent a no-deal Brexit.

The hour-long meeting was “productive and detailed”, a joint statement from the various opposition parties said.

“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”.

They plan to meet again to thrash out the details, although it is thought one option being mulled would be to recycle the tactic used earlier this year to force an extension to Article 50.

One Labour source played down the suggestion that a vote of no confidence had been dropped as an option, however other parties stressed legislation as the best possible route forward.

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

Plaid Cymru added: “Today’s cross-party meeting was positive and productive. All parties have agreed to explore the best possible way of avoiding a crash out Brexit using a legislative approach.”

No Conservative MPs attended the meeting this morning, despite the invite being extended to a handful of the most vocal critics, including former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

But this afternoon Corbyn has written to 116 Tory MPs, including former Prime Minister Theresa May, ex-chancellor Philip Hammond, and other ex-Cabinet colleagues such as David Gauke and Greg Clark, urging them to join forces.

Corbyn wrote:

We know there is a majority in parliament against No Deal. As MPs we’ve voted against No Deal on a number of occasions and we did so in the largest number on 27 March of this year.

As you were one of 116 Conservative or independent MPs who voted against No Deal that day and are not on the government frontbench, I am writing to you to offer to work together, in a collegiate, cross party spirit, to find a practical way to prevent No Deal.

This is an urgent task. The Prime Minister is reportedly planning to suspend parliament to force through a No Deal crash out. This action would be, according to legal advice I’ve received from Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti, “the gravest abuse of power and attack upon UK constitutional principle in living memory”.

My view is that holding a general election after an extension is achieved is the simplest and most democratic way to prevent No Deal and to let the people of this country decide our future. Indeed, it is the best route to a referendum or leaving the EU with a deal.

I understand not all colleagues may agree. So I would like to invite you to join a dialogue with myself, as leader of the Labour Party, and other opposition parties, to find a way for the clear will of parliament against No Deal to express itself.

Previously Downing Street sources said they were preparing for a showdown on 9 September, with MPs expected to use a debate on the Northern Ireland Act as an opportunity to seize control and push through legislation.

Today, the same sources said that date was still the most likely for a parliamentary battle.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has pledged to take the UK out of the European Union by 31 October “do or die”. After holding a series of bilateral meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Donald Tusk, there has been a “rhetorical shift” on the Withdrawal Agreement, specifically the backstop.

One government source said the agreement, which had been previously deemed closed off, was “no longer sacrosanct”, allowing for an opportunity to “prise open” negotiations.

Johnson is due to speak with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker later today, after the Luxembourgish politician failed to attend the G7 following emergency gallbladder surgery.

He is also expected to travel to Dublin as early as next week, to meet Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, with the hopes of building on his continental charm offensive.

More to follow…

Main image: Getty