Theresa May is fighting to find a cross-party Brexit plan today despite being snubbed by Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon – as it emerged MPs will not vote on her Plan B for nearly two weeks.
Political rivals have been congregating in Downing Street after the Prime Minister held out an olive branch following a failed Labour bid to oust her.
Tory Eurosceptics including David Davis and Green MP Caroline Lucas are among the key players spotted out and about in Whitehall this morning as efforts to forge consensus are ramped up.
Mrs May’s effective deputy David Lidington is co-ordinating the drive to hammer out a solution, while Environment Secretary and Leave campaign veteran Michael Gove is also expected to play a key role.
But Mr Corbyn and Mrs Sturgeon have caused fury by flatly rejecting the overture, insisting they will not talk until the government rules out leaving the EU without a deal.
Mrs May has said the option must stay on the table, and has also raised questions about how much scope there is for compromise by repeating her view that the UK must leave on schedule in March and cannot be in a customs union.
It emerged today that a Commons debate and vote on the government’s ‘Plan B’ for Brexit will not take place until January 29 – likely to spark more claims that Mrs May is trying to run down the clock.
Despite the SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford meeting the premier last night, Mrs Sturgeon today pulled the SNP out of the talks, claiming she would not be ‘complicit in more time wasting’.
Meanwhile, allies of the Labour leader boasted today that his tactics mean Mrs May will have to split the Tory party if she wants to get a Brexit package through the Commons.
Tory and Opposition MPs pointed out that Mr Corbyn was willing to ‘sit down with terrorists’ without any preconditions – insisting his only aim was to seize power whatever the consequences for the country.
Tony Blair also waded in this morning by saying ‘of course’ Mr Corbyn should accept the premier’s invitation at a ‘moment of crisis’.
Tory Brexiteers including (left to right) Owen Paterson, Iain Duncan Smith, David Davis, Mark Francois and Steve Baker were in Whitehall for meetings today as wrangling continued
Tory 1922 committee chairman Graham Brady (left) and Caroline Lucas were also in Downing Street as the talks rumble on
In a Downing Street speech last night, Theresa May held out an olive branch to political rivals last night after surviving a Labour bid to oust her
Mr Corbyn (pictured right leaving his London home today) caused fury by flatly rejecting the overture, insisting that he would not talk until the government rules out leaving the EU without a deal. Tony Blair (pictured left) said the Labour leader should talk to the PM at a time of ‘crisis’
Mr Corbyn – who underline his intentions by delivering a Brexit speech in the marginal constituency of Hastings this morning – saw his latest bid to force an election spectacularly backfire in the Commons last night.
A no-confidence motion tabled by Labour was defeated by 325 votes to 306 – with the victory margin of 19 significantly larger than Mrs May’s effective majority of 13.
The PM’s position was secured by the DUP and Tory Brexiteers coming back into the fold despite dealing her a vicious humiliation by defeating her EU deal the night before.
Speaking outside Number 10 late last night, Mrs May said: ‘I understand that to people getting on with their lives, away from Westminster, the events of the past 24 hours will have been unsettling.
‘Overwhelmingly, the British people want us to get on with delivering Brexit, and also address the other important issues they care about.
‘But the deal which I have worked to agree with the European Union was rejected by MPs, and by a large margin. I believe it is my duty to deliver on the British people’s instruction to leave the EU. And I intend to do so.’
Ms Lucas said she believed the PM was in ‘listening mode’ and revealed that their meeting overran by about 15 minutes, saying that was a good sign.
‘I still remain really concerned that this reaching out across parliament is happening far too late and I’m not convinced she’s willing to loosen any of the red lines she’s set herself,’ she said.
‘She still thinks it’s going to be possible to tweak this deal sufficiently to get the 230 MPs that voted against it to swing behind it – I remain pretty sceptical about that.’
Immediately after her victory in the confidence vote was declared last night, Mrs May invited the other party leaders to join talks.
But in an extraordinary snub Mr Corbyn immediately refused, saying he would only join discussions if Mrs May ruled out no deal.
Tory and Labour MPs voiced anger that the veteran left-winger was willing to ‘sit down with terrorists’ without conditions, but would not meet the leader of the UK to resolve the biggest crisis facing the country.
Mrs May tried to rally her divided MPs yesterday as she faced yet another battle for her political life with a confidence vote
Mrs May said she had held ‘constructive’ meetings with the leaders of the Lib Dems, SNP and Plaid Cymru.
‘I am disappointed that the leader of the Labour Party has not so far chosen to take part, but our door remains open,’ she added.
MPs lashed the Labour leader – accusing him of sitting down with terrorists but rebuffing the leader of the United Kingdom at a time of national crisis.
In 1984, Corbyn invited Linda Quigley and Gerard McLoughlin for tea in Parliament – both were convicted of IRA terrorism.
Tory MP James Heappey retorted: ‘Jeremy Corbyn has sat down with terrorists around the world apparently in pursuit of and always without preconditions.
‘But will he sit down with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to tackle biggest constitutional challenge of our time without preconditions? Errr, no.’
Labour MP Chris Leslie also attacked him, telling MailOnline: ‘Every opportunity to influence Brexit policy ought to be taken – surely we should be taking the chance to see the Prime Minister, even if all we get is time to persuade her of the merits of a People’s Vote?’
Tory minister Guy Opperman told CNN: ‘I’d like Labour to stop playing politics, get round the table, and identify specifically what in the withdrawal agreement and the political agreement they manifestly disagree with, because until they spell out their position – and the other parties, but the main one is Labour – we don’t know where the common ground it.’