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Jeremy Corbyn leading cross-party talks to block no-deal Brexit

Opposition figures and critics of Boris Johnson are split over the best way to prevent the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal on October 31.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is leading talks aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit (Joe Giddens/PA)
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is leading talks aimed at blocking a no-deal Brexit (Joe Giddens/PA)

By David Hughes and Elizabeth Arnold, PA Political Reporters

Jeremy Corbyn is leading talks with cross-party figures in an effort to unite around a plan to block a no-deal Brexit.

The Labour leader said his party will “do everything necessary” to halt a no-deal Brexit as he meets other senior MPs to try to find a way to challenge Boris Johnson.

But critics of the Prime Minister’s approach – which will see the UK leave the European Union on October 31 with or without a deal – are split over the best way to prevent it.

Mr Corbyn’s hopes of passing a motion of no confidence in the Prime Minister could be scuppered by his desire to lead a caretaker-government which would be formed in the wake of a defeat for Mr Johnson.

Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said she is “not precious” about who a caretaker-prime minister should be, but does not believe Mr Corbyn could command support across the Commons.

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer urged MPs to “put aside the sort of fantasy politics of who wants this and that” and unite around a plan to prevent a no-deal.

He suggested that trying to seize control of Commons business and pass a law to prevent a no-deal Brexit could be the way forward.

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(PA Graphics)

“I was very supportive of the measures earlier this year to pass legislation to prevent no-deal and I’m very supportive of them now,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“I think they’re direct, I think they’re effective and I want something with a legal edge, because with a vote of no confidence it goes into the questions of conventions, who does this, who does that.”

But he said the two approaches “aren’t mutually exclusive” and could be done together.

Ms Swinson has previously suggested that the cross-party talks should examine how to take control of the Commons order paper and whether to replace Mr Johnson with an emergency government of national unity, which could be led by veteran MPs Ken Clarke from the Tory side and Labour’s Harriet Harman.

She told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “If there are others, I am open to hearing others … Anybody that could command a majority in the House of Commons to avoid us crashing out without a deal if the legislative approach, which I think is the strongest and best way forward, if that doesn’t work.”

Other opposition leaders attending the discussion with Mr Corbyn on parliamentary tactics include SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford, the Independent Group for Change’s Anna Soubry, and Plaid Cymru Westminster head Liz Saville-Roberts.

The cross-party talks come a week before the Commons resumes sitting on September 3 after MPs’ summer break.

Mr Corbyn said a no-deal exit from the EU would amount to a “bankers’ Brexit”, benefiting the rich.

Writing in the Independent, he added: “The battle to stop no-deal Brexit isn’t a struggle between those who want to leave the EU and those who want continued membership.

“It’s a battle of the many against the few who are hijacking the referendum result to shift even more power and wealth towards those at the top.

“That’s why the Labour Party will do everything necessary to stop a no-deal bankers’ Brexit.”

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(PA Graphics)

The comments came as the Guardian reported that legal advice prepared for the Labour leader by shadow attorney general Shami Chakrabarti claims that Mr Johnson would be committing the “gravest abuse of power and attack on UK constitutional principle in living memory” if he shut down parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit.

MPs opposed to a temporary shutdown – known as prorogation – will gather at Church House in Westminster on Tuesday, a symbolically important location as it was where the Commons sat for a period during the Second World War.

Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said she did not think the suspension of Parliament by Mr Johnson’s Government to pursue a no-deal Brexit was “on the cards”.

She told Today: “Downing Street have made it very clear that claims of any sort of prorogation in September are utterly false and we are working very hard as a Government to prepare for no-deal … The Prime Minister has said he’s not attracted to these sorts of archaic conventions.”

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(PA Graphics)

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tweeted: “We will not surrender parliamentary sovereignty to the right wing cabal in Number 10. MPs must unite to stop this abuse of executive power.”

The cross-party efforts come as Mr Johnson prepares to create large numbers of Brexiteer peers within months – to counter what he sees as a heavy pro-Remain bias in the House of Lords.

The first wave of six so-called “Brexit heroes” will be announced after the October 31 withdrawal date, with further names added in the following months.

Those honoured are expected to include figures who made a contribution to the Leave cause – although Tory sources stressed that Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage would not be among them.

PA

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