Jeremy Corbyn has accused the Prime Minister of trying to “blackmail” Labour MPs into backing her EU Withdrawal Agreement by threatening chaos if the UK crashes out without a deal.
But the Labour leader said Theresa May had failed to persuade his MPs, declaring: “The Labour Party will not be held to ransom.”
Addressing the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) on the eve of the crucial vote, Mr Corbyn predicted that Mrs May’s deal would be defeated and said the country should then have a general election.
The Labour Party will not be held to ransomJeremy Corbyn
Pressed on when he will table the no-confidence motion which he hopes will trigger an election, Mr Corbyn told MPs: “Don’t be concerned, it’s coming soon.”
Aides later said that the timing of the tabling of the motion would be a matter for Mr Corbyn and that Labour expected it to then be treated as a top priority for debating time in the Commons.
“That’s something that I don’t think – if the Government is defeated tomorrow – that you are going to have to wait a long time for,” said a senior source.
The source characterised the PLP meeting as “calm and supportive” and said Mr Corbyn had dealt with a number of “respectful” queries from MPs about the party’s next steps if it fails to secure a general election.
In this situation, the source stressed that a second referendum was only one of a number of options which would be on the table for Labour, alongside seeking a different Brexit deal in line with the party’s own priorities.
Mr Corbyn made clear in the meeting that he still has concerns about the “neo-liberal” direction the EU has taken, which led him to campaign in the 2016 referendum on a platform of “remain and reform”.
Addressing Labour MPs and peers behind closed doors, Mr Corbyn said: “Theresa May’s deal is a bad deal for our country.
“It fails to meet the needs of millions of our constituents facing deep insecurity and stress from a lack of good jobs, inadequate housing and chronic under-investment in their communities and futures.
“Theresa May has attempted to blackmail Labour MPs to vote for her botched deal by threatening the country with the chaos of no-deal.
“I know from conversations with colleagues that this has failed.
“The Labour Party will not be held to ransom.
“When the Prime Minister’s deal is defeated, she will only have herself to blame.
“She has spent two years negotiating with her Cabinet and her bickering backbenchers instead of the EU, shutting out trade unions, businesses and Parliament from the process.
“The Tory Party’s botched deal will be rejected by Parliament.
“We will then need an election to have the chance to vote for a government that can bring our people together and address the deep-seated issues facing our country.”