Labour rejects Tory ministers' approach over Brexit talks, demanding direct contact between leaders

Labour source told The Independent they suspected the government was attempt to 'divide and rule' by working around Mr Corbyn

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 16 January 2019 19:47 GMT

Members of Jeremy Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have rejected approaches from senior government ministers over cross-party Brexit talks, saying Theresa May herself must reach out to the Labour leader.

Labour sources told The Independent that they suspected the government was trying to “divide and rule” the shadow cabinet by working around Mr Corbyn and directly contacting frontbenchers.

It comes after Ms May suffered a historic loss over her Brexit deal on Tuesday evening - the worst defeat of a government in parliamentary history and on one of the most critical issues facing the country.

In the wake of the defeat, the prime minister claimed she wanted to reach out to MPs across the chamber to reach a new agreement, but the Labour leader said no attempt had been made to contact his office by Downing Street.

Before the result of a motion of no confidence was declared, a senior Labour source said that three members of Mr Corbyn’s frontbench had been contacted by two cabinet ministers, and another government minister.

Labour said Brexit secretary Stephen Barclay was one of those who have reached out to members of Mr Corbyn’s top team.

“Theresa May’s failure to reach out to the leader of the opposition shows she’s not serious about finding a way forward,’ a party source said.

They added: “Labour will resist this classic Tory divide and rule. If the prime minister thinks MPs are going to allow her to continue to play games rather than have serious conversations, she’s got another thing coming.”

A Downing Street source said they were unaware of the contact made between government ministers and Labour, and Mr Barclay's team were unable to confirm or deny whether he approached shadow cabinet ministers.

Earlier, Mr Corbyn said the prime minister had failed to reach out across party lines in the wake of the humiliating defeat, saying any previous prime minister would have resigned in the scale of such defeat.

Ms May confirmed she wanted to meet MPs from across Parliament, before returning to the Commons on Monday to make a fresh statement on the way forward on Brexit.

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