Theresa May has told Jeremy Corbyn it is “impossible” for the Government to rule out a no-deal Brexit as it emerged she faces the threat of mass ministerial resignations over the issue.
The Prime Minister has been holding cross-party talks over Brexit following her crushing defeat in the Commons, but the Labour leader has refused to meet her unless she takes the option of a no-deal Brexit off the table.
In a letter to the Labour leader, she said it was “not within the Government’s power” to guarantee no-deal, as this could be done only by securing Parliament’s approval for a withdrawal agreement or by overturning the result of the 2016 referendum, something she was not prepared to do.
Mrs May is reportedly facing a wave of resignations from ministers if MPs are barred from trying to stop the UK leaving without a deal in place.
According to the Telegraph, up to 20 ministers have indicated that they are prepared to quit the Government so they can support backbench moves to stop no deal.
A number of Labour MPs have defied a request from Mr Corbyn not to engage in discussions designed to find a plan which might command a majority in the House of Commons.
Speaking in the marginal Conservative seat of Hastings, Mr Corbyn dismissed the cross-party talks as a “stunt” and said the PM seemed unable to grasp the fact that her Withdrawal Agreement was now “dead”.
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“She seems to be prepared to send the country hurtling towards a cliff edge,” he said.
“To get a deal that can command a majority in Parliament, Theresa May has to ditch the red lines and get serious about proposals for the future.”
Mrs May has indicated that she is sticking to the “principles” behind her Withdrawal Agreement, which include taking control of money, borders and laws and having an independent trade policy.
She said her door is open for talks with the Labour leader, but told him: “That is an impossible condition because it is not within the Government’s power to rule out no deal.”
The PM’s motion, and any amendments tabled by MPs, will be the subject of the latest in a series of crunch Brexit votes in the Commons on January 29.
Labour’s former prime minister Tony Blair said Mr Corbyn was wrong to refuse to meet Mrs May, while Conservative chairman Brandon Lewis accused Labour of “trying to frustrate and avoid Brexit”.
Sir Vince Cable, who spoke with Mrs May on Wednesday evening, accused Mr Corbyn of playing “party political games” and said the Liberal Democrats would no longer join Labour in no confidence votes in the Government.
“I believe other parties are taking the same view,” the Lib Dem leader said. “It’s time Mr Corbyn got off the fence and made his position plain.”