Blame game as opposition parties' Brexit talks end in division

7 October 2019, 17:03 | Updated: 7 October 2019, 18:28

The latest opposition talks on how to avoid a no-deal Brexit have ended in acrimony, with a blame game breaking out between the parties involved.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, the SNP's Ian Blackford, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson, the Greens' Caroline Lucas, Anna Soubry of the Independent Group for Change and Plaid Cymru leader Liz Saville Roberts all met for discussions in Westminster on Monday.

It comes in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiling new proposals in a bid to strike a Brexit deal with Brussels before the current 31 October deadline.

The opposition meeting was to decide on the next steps to "hold the government to account", but a common approach on the way forward appears to be a remote prospect at this stage.

A source close to the talks said that Labour is standing firm in its insistence that Mr Corbyn - as leader of the opposition, - should be the candidate to lead any emergency government.

The other opposition parties, meanwhile, expressed a willingness to support a different candidate if necessary.

Tory rebels, MPs from the Independent Group for Change and the Lib Dems have all said they cannot support Mr Corbyn as an interim PM.

After the meeting, a senior Lib Dem source hit out at Labour's position, claiming the party's "total unwillingness to work with anyone else" makes them the "biggest barrier to stopping no-deal".

The SNP's Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, said Labour and the Lib Dems "need to grow up".

Mr Blackford told Sky News: "I will simply say to colleagues, 'You will all have to face the electorate if we do crash out and we haven't removed this prime minister when we have the option of doing that over the course of the coming days.'"

"What we need to do is come together and show that leadership that all the nations of the United Kingdom are looking for us to do.

"Let's seize the moment, let's remove Boris Johnson so that these risks we are talking about are taken off the table."

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Ms Saville Roberts of Plaid Cymru said: "Our focus must be uncompromising in ensuring the prime minister follows the Benn Act [legislation passed by opposition MPs seeking to avoid no-deal] and seeks an extension if he fails to deliver his fantasy deal."

A Plaid Cymru source said: "The focus now must be on ensuring that the anti-no deal legislation is enacted.

"We cannot afford to do anything to jeopardise that - that includes playing party political games over who should lead a caretaker administration."

Another opposition source said there had to be concessions from all parties on the issue of who forms an emergency government.

"The Liberal Democrats also need to be ready to compromise and if Jeremy Corbyn can form a majority then he needs to be given that option, as is his legitimate right," the source, who is close to the talks, said.

They added that work on an emergency motion - known as a standing order 24 (SO24) - to seize control of business in the Commons had not attained the "clarity" required to get the backing of all parties.

This mechanism could have seen opposition parties take control of the order paper in a bid to strengthen the Benn Act.

The 21 Conservative rebels, who were sacked from Mr Johnson's government for voting in favour of the legislation, are understood to have not been convinced by the measure.

"In truth, the detail for it was not fully nailed down," the opposition source said.

"It was being pushed by the former Tory 21 but it was also pulled by them.

"We will take their cue as to when they feel confident they have the numbers and feel able to deliver on the mooted SO24."