Corbyn calls for opposition pact to topple Johnson
Jeremy Corbyn has set out proposals to form a temporary government that would request an extension to Article 50 in an effort to avoid a no-deal Brexit on October 31, before calling a general election.
In a letter to the leaders of other opposition parties and senior backbench MPs, Mr Corbyn said he intends to table a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s government “at the earliest opportunity when we can be confident of success”. He would then seek to form a “time-limited temporary government” with the aim of calling an election.
The Labour leader urged his counterparts in the Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru and Green parties — along with Conservative MPs opposed to a no-deal departure — to support his bid to collapse the Johnson government and delay Brexit.
“This government has no mandate for no deal, and the 2016 EU referendum provided no mandate for no deal,” he wrote in the letter.
The announcement came as Sarah Wollaston, the former Conservative MP who defected to the Independent Group, announced that she was joining the Liberal Democrats, bringing the party’s presence in the House of Commons up to 14 MPs.
Dr Wollaston said she joined the Lib Dems because they were “unequivocally making the case for us to remain at the heart of Europe, as well as campaigning for social justice, the environment and our public services”.
Mr Corbyn said that in the ensuing general election, Labour would stand on a platform of holding a second referendum on the terms of leaving the EU, including an option to remain in the bloc.
In response to the initiative, a Downing Street spokesperson said that Mr Corbyn wanted to “overrule the referendum and wreck the economy”.
“This government believes the people are the masters and votes should be respected, Jeremy Corbyn believes that the people are the servants and politicians can cancel public votes they don’t like.”
The proposal is the first attempt by Mr Corbyn to forge a cross-party consensus on stopping a no-deal Brexit since Mr Johnson became prime minister.
While the majority of Labour MPs will support the move, some opposition MPs remain hesitant to working with him.
Jo Swinson, leader of the Liberal Democrats said: “This letter is just more red lines that are about him and his position and is not a serious attempt to find the right solution and build a consensus to stop a no-deal Brexit.
“I am committed to working in a credible way with those in other parties, and none, across Parliament to stop a no-deal Brexit and will set out how that could work in my speech tomorrow.”
But Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader in Westminster, welcomed Mr Corbyn’s proposal and said the party would support any no-confidence motion table aimed at bringing down Mr Johnson’s government.
“I will be pleased to meet with the Labour leader and others at the earliest opportunity to work together,” he said.
Liz Saville Roberts, the Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru, also welcomed Mr Corbyn’s plan and said “the crisis we find ourselves in goes beyond personalities”.
“We are very much open to the idea of a Unity Government. It doesn’t matter who leads it, but its number one priority must be stopping Brexit — that means extending Article 50, delivering a referendum and cancelling Brexit,” she said.
Mr Corbyn has also written to cabinet secretary Mark Sedwill to ask how the civil service’s purdah rules — which state that no major policy changes can take place during an election period — would apply during any election that straddles the UK’s departure date from the EU of October 31.
Sir Mark gave a non-committal response on Wednesday. “The purdah rules are set out in Chapter 2 of the Cabinet Manuel. Let me reassure you that I am ready to ensure their full and proper application according to the circumstances at the time,” he wrote.