Lib Dems block cross-party plan to install Corbyn as PM if Johnson defeated over no-deal

30 September 2019, 20:15 | Updated: 30 September 2019, 23:52

Talks between Jeremy Corbyn and leaders of Westminster's smaller parties on how to block a no-deal Brexit have been hit by a rift between Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

The Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson is vetoing a plan - backed by the other parties - to install Mr Corbyn as a temporary prime minister if Boris Johnson is defeated in a vote of confidence.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Corbyn said moves to force Mr Johnson to comply with the so-called Benn Act, tabling a vote of no confidence in the government and seizing control of the Commons agenda were discussed.

"All of those options are absolutely in play and all of those options are under consideration," he said.

"Our agreed position is to prevent a no-deal exit and ensure the prime minister obeys the Act... which requires him to make an application to the EU by 19 October if no agreement has been reached by parliament at that stage.

"There are no signs that the prime minister has even made an application of any sort, or indeed any proposals, to the EU thus far.

"We will be raising many issues this week about the dangers of the no-deal exit.

"We'll continue putting that pressure on the government and we will do everything we can to make sure parliament is in session in order to deal with these issues right up to the 19 October."

But the leaders will not table a motion of no confidence in the government this week during the Conservative Party conference, because of a split in tactics.

The SNP leader, Ian Blackford, failed to persuade Ms Swinson to support a Corbyn premiership in a so-called government of national unity, which Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg described in his Tory conference speech this week as a "Remoaner coup".

Ms Swinson, who declined to be interviewed by Sky News alongside the other leaders, has said she would only support a compromise candidate for PM like Tory grandee Kenneth Clarke or Labour veteran Dame Margaret Beckett.

"He simply does not have the numbers," Ms Swinson said after the meeting.

"I have been crystal clear but I will do so again - Jeremy Corbyn is not going into Number 10 on the basis of Liberal Democrats' votes."

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Describing the meeting, Ms Swinson said: "It is positive that the cross-party discussions that are being held had continue to be constructive.

"What is clear is that this week it is important we don't go for a precipitous vote of no confidence motion.

"It is understood that, if anything, that would just increase the risk of a no-deal Brexit and therefore play into Boris Johnson's hands.

"What is going to happen is the party whips are going to meet to plan out different scenarios and different options, including the possibility of an insurance option of a government of national unity, including who might be able to lead such a government."

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said the party leaders at the meeting were "completely united about stopping no-deal", adding: "We'll do whatever we need to do to make sure that no-deal doesn't happen.

"I don't think anyone is expecting a vote of no confidence this week but what we are expecting is to continue to discuss the best tactics and so forth in order to make sure that Boris Johnson doesn't go ahead and defy the law and take us out with no deal."

Also present was Anna Soubry of The Independent Group for Change, who said after the meeting: "There is no vote of no confidence this week."

But she said: "This country is not going to crash out of the European Union without a deal and that resolve is paramount."