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Independent MPs could keep Theresa May in power if she calls a second EU referendum

Jeremy Corbyn (C) with the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC (L) and the Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales the Baroness Sharmishta Chakrabarti
Jeremy Corbyn (C) with the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Sir Keir Starmer KCB QC (L) and the Shadow Attorney General for England and Wales the Baroness Sharmishta Chakrabarti

By David Hughes

Theresa May could be propped up by the Independent Group if she agrees to a second Brexit referendum, one of the breakaway MPs has said.

Former Labour MP Gavin Shuker said if Mrs May agreed to a public vote on the withdrawal agreement, it would be in the national interest to make sure there was a "period of stability" to allow that to happen.

Mr Shuker said he had made a similar offer while he was still a Labour member before Monday's dramatic announcement of the split from Jeremy Corbyn's party.

He suggested a confidence and supply agreement would be conditional on support for a referendum, along the lines of the compromise plan set out by Labour backbencher Peter Kyle, which would see MPs back the withdrawal agreement, but with the public given the final say.

The Luton South MP told HuffPost UK's Commons People podcast: "We need a general election like a hole in the head right now. We're 900 hours to Brexit and we're going to crash out without a deal unless something replaces that.

"I think the most sensible way forward is for the Government to adopt what's become known as the Kyle amendment, because it would do exactly what I said before. And in those circumstances, I think the national interest would be served by seeing a period of stability to get that referendum done."

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister appeared to step up efforts to prevent further defections from the Tory ranks by meeting two prominent Conservative supporters of a second referendum.

Her invitation to Phillip Lee and Justine Greening followed warnings the party was "destroying itself".

Sarah Wollaston, one of the three Conservatives who quit to join the Independent Group (TIG) this week, suggested a third of the Cabinet could walk out if Mrs May steers the country towards a no-deal Brexit.

In a letter to Dr Wollaston, Anna Soubry and Heidi Allen, who also quit the party, Mrs May said she was "saddened" by their decision to leave.

However, she strongly rejected their claims the party had shifted to the right and was now in the grip of "hardline" Brexiteers.

"I am determined that under my leadership the Conservative Party will always offer the decent, moderate and patriotic politics that the people of this country deserve," she wrote.

Mr Corbyn urged the TIG MPs to stand down and fight by-elections under their new banner, which he dismissed as "the failed business-as-usual politics of the past".

Ian Paisley (left) told the BBC he did not believe the defections threatened the DUP's confidence and supply agreement with the Conservative Party.

"We're in a very fluid situation in Parliament. Clearly, there are people who are desperately unhappy with the Labour Party (and) some people who have been nomads in the Conservative Party. I just think that we've got to leave those parties to sort their own problems out," the North Antrim MP said.

"Every party can have problems. I don't believe it affects the majority."

Mr Paisley also stressed he was not concerned about the DUP's influence being diminished by the new group.

"I don't know what's going to happen within the Conservative Party. There may be people who are dissatisfied with the leadership for different reasons," he said.

"People may decide to leave the party. We'll cross the bridge when we come to it. The fact of the matter is the 10 DUP MPs keep the Government in power, keep stability in the UK and are making sure that we deliver on our manifesto pledges on Brexit."

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