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Meeting of opposition party leaders over Brexit ends in division

THE Labour Party has been accused of being the biggest barrier to stopping a no-deal Brexit after a cross-party meeting to scrutinise the Government’s new proposals ended in division.

The prime minister set out his blueprint for an agreement last week, and the aim of today’s meeting was to decide on the next steps to ‘hold the government to account’.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn (pictured) was expected to meet the SNP’s Ian Blackford, Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson and the Greens’ Caroline Lucas, as well as Anna Soubry of the Independent Group for Change and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts.

Talks: Ian Blackford, Anna Soubry and Caroline Lucas pictured last month PICTURES: GETTY/PA

Following the meeting, a senior Lib Dem source said: ‘The position Jeremy Corbyn is taking is that we can have an emergency Government, but only if he gets to lead it.

‘They know they don’t have the numbers, but they are insistent they won’t work with anyone else.

‘Their total unwillingness to work with anyone else makes the Labour Party the biggest barrier to stopping no-deal.’

A source close to the talks said that while the Labour Party confirmed it would be unwilling to back any other candidate to lead an emergency government, every other party in the meeting expressed a willingness to support another candidate if that is what is required.

Tory rebels, members of the Independent Group for Change and the Liberal Democrats have all said they could not support Mr Corbyn as interim prime minister.

Another Opposition source said there needed to be concessions from all parties when it came to forming an emergency government.

‘The Liberal Democrats also need to be ready to compromise and if Jeremy Corbyn can form a majority then he needs to be given that option, as is his legitimate right,’ the source close to the talks said.

The source said work on an emergency motion — known as a standing order 24 (SO24) — to take control of Commons business had failed to gain the ‘clarity’ necessary to secure support of all parties.

A successful SO24 could have seen Opposition parties take control of the order paper to strengthen legal guards against a no-deal Brexit.

It is understood the 21 Conservative rebels, who were sacked from the party for voting to implement the no-deal blocking Benn Act, were not convinced by the measure.

‘In truth, the detail for it was not fully nailed down,’ the Opposition source said.

‘It was being pushed by the former Tory 21 but it was also pulled by them.

‘We will take their cue as to when they feel confident they have the numbers and feel able to deliver on the mooted SO24.

‘We will work with anybody,’ the source added, ‘if they have measures that would see any no-deal legislation strengthened if necessary’.

Former Labour MP John Woodcock said the party would be saying ‘goodbye’ to the chance of securing a second Brexit referendum if it continued to push for Mr Corbyn to lead an emergency government.

‘Jeremy Corbyn could do more damage to UK security in a few short weeks as prime minister than Kim Philby did in years as a spy,’ tweeted Mr Woodock, now an Independent.

‘If my friends in Labour don’t rule him out as caretaker PM they can wave goodbye to a ‘people’s vote’.’

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Corbyn said: ‘Labour is continuing to lead cross-party efforts to prevent a damaging no-deal.’

Shadow cabinet ministers John McDonnell, Valerie Vaz and Shami Chakrabarti were also expected be in attendance at the meeting today, along with the Lib Dems’ Brexit spokesman Tom Brake.

It is understood there will be further meetings this week between party whips.

Appeal due after Brexit extension letter challenge dismissed

AN APPEAL is to be launched against a dismissal of legal action aimed at forcing the Prime Minister to send a letter requesting a Brexit extension.

It comes after Judge Lord Pentland announced his decision to refuse the case today after considering arguments previously made at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

He cited documents submitted to the Outer House which show Boris Johnson accepts he must send a letter to the EU requesting an extension to Article 50 under the terms of the so-called Benn Act.

The Outer House of the court ruled that the case against the Prime Minister had not been ‘based on reasonable apprehension of breach of statutory duty’.