Jeremy Corbyn boycotts Theresa May talks to solve Brexit crisis

The Labour leader said he could not accept Ms May’s invitation until she rules out a 'catastrophe' no-deal Brexit 

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Wednesday 16 January 2019 22:36 GMT
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MPs vote in confidence of Theresa May's government following her Brexit deal defeat

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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Jeremy Corbyn has refused to meet Theresa May for talks to find a way out of the Brexit crisis, saying it would be impossible until she rules out a no-deal outcome.

The Labour leader said he could not accept Ms May’s invitation because the idea of a no-deal Brexit is a “catastrophe” he cannot countenance.

The prime minister made her offer of cross-party talks to break the Brexit impasse after she won a vote of no confidence in the House of Commons on Wednesday that had been brought by Mr Corbyn.

But the Labour leader responded: “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 and all the chaos that would come as a result of that.”

The leader of the opposition’s spokesman later repeated the demand that no deal be ruled out before any talks started, and accused the prime minister of trying to use the threat of crashing out without a deal to “blackmail” Mr Corbyn into talks.

He said: “There can’t be meaningful talks about how to find a deal that reflects the majority in parliament and that can command a majority in parliament while the threat of no deal, which would be disastrous for the country ... is still on the table. That must come off the table.”

“It’s effectively a blackmail and makes meaningful talks on a real solution that can command a majority in parliament impossible.”

Ms May had just survived an attempt to oust her as prime minister, as MPs rejected Mr Corbyn’s motion of no confidence in the government by a margin of 325 to 306.

Jeremy Corbyn launches bid to topple Theresa May in aftermath of major Brexit defeat

Her 19-vote victory came less than 24 hours after the crushing defeat of her EU withdrawal agreement in the commons, and clears the way for her to start cross-party talks on a Brexit plan B.

Conservative rebels and members of the Democratic Unionist Party who consigned the PM to the worst defeat in parliamentary history on Tuesday rallied behind her to see off the threat of a general election.

Welcoming the result, Ms May told the Commons: “I am pleased that this house has expressed its confidence in the government.

“I do not take this responsibility lightly and my government will continue its work to increase our prosperity, guarantee our security and to strengthen our union.

“And yes, we will also continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise we made to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union.”

She invited leaders of opposition parties to take part in individual meetings with her on the way forward for Brexit, starting on Wednesday evening.

She held talks with DUP leader Arlene Foster, who later described the discussions as “useful” and said she had made clear the Northern Irish party would “act in the national interest”.

“Lessons will need to be learned from the vote in parliament,” said Ms Foster.

“The issue of the backstop needs to be dealt and we will continue to work to that end.”

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