Tory Remainer rebels were today branded ‘Corbyn’s useful idiots’ by their furious party colleagues after agreeing to meet the hard Left Labour leader in a bid to block a No Deal Brexit.
Dominic Grieve, Sir Oliver Letwin and Dame Caroline Spelman sparked Brexiteer outrage and calls for them to face no confidence votes from their local parties over what they see as traitorous behaviour.
They agreed to meet with the Labour leader to try to figure out a way of stopping the UK crashing out of the EU at the Halloween deadline without an agreement, but insist they will not help him become PM.
The trio of Tory former ministers were joined by a fourth, Guto Bebb, who suggested he would prefer a temporary government led by Mr Corbyn over a No Deal split from Brussels. All except Mr Grieve represent constituencies which voted Leave in 2016.
It came as Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson performed a U-turn and said she was now willing to meet with Mr Corbyn to discuss his plan.
She had initially said his idea of toppling Mr Johnson using a Commons no confidence vote and then forming a temporary government with the Labour leader as PM to delay Brexit was ‘nonsense’.
Despite Ms Swinson softening her opposition to the plan, the chances of her coming to an agreement with Mr Corbyn appear slim, especially after he hit out at her failure to back his candidacy to be the next PM.
Mr Corbyn said today: ‘It’s not up to Jo Swinson to choose candidates, it’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the next prime minister is going to be.’
Leave supporters believe that Mr Corbyn’s plan is just a cover for him to seize and then keep power.
A senior Tory Brexiteer told MailOnline: ‘They are idiots. They are Corbyn’s useful idiots. If they think he would be there temporarily that is complete nonsense.’
Asked if the quartet should face constituency votes of no confidence, they added: ‘I think they should. I think the constituency associations for these people will be absolutely appalled.
‘They would be entirely justified in having special general meetings to consider if they want to carry on supporting them as Conservative candidates.’
Last night Mr Johnson warned the Tory Remainer rebels that the 2016 EU referendum result ‘must be respected’ as he recommitted to his ‘do or die’ pledge.
He told them: ‘We will leave the EU on 31st October.’
Mr Corbyn said today: ‘It’s not up to Jo Swinson to choose candidates, it’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the next prime minister is going to be’
Boris Johnson, pictured at a crime roundtable in Downing Street on Monday, has issued a barely disguised warning to Tory MPs who are working to stop a No Deal Brexit
Mr Johnson addressed Tory rebels directly with a tweet last night in which he recommitted to his ‘do or die’ Brexit pledge
Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan, a former Remainer, also laid into Mr Corbyn’s plan.
In a tweet endorsed by Damian Green, a Remainer former cabinet minister, she said: ‘This would be ”short-term” in the same way Labour MPs thought Corbyn was a ”short term” Labour leader they could indulge for a bit – and now can’t get rid of him.’
Mr Corbyn has set out a plan which would see MPs vote to oust Mr Johnson and then install the Labour leader in Number 10 on a time limited basis to stop No Deal by persuading the EU to extend the Brexit deadline beyond October 31.
Dominic Grieve (pictured in July) is one of three sitting Tory MPs along with Dame Caroline Spelman and Sir Oliver Letwin to have agreed to meet with Jeremy Corbyn to discuss his anti-No Deal plans
Sir Oliver has faced criticism from his constituency over his decision to meet with Mr Corbyn. Guto Bebb, a fourth Tory former minister, yesterday suggested he would favour a temporary Jeremy Corbyn-led government over a No Deal split
Can Tory MPs be kicked out over anti-No Deal Brexit stance?
The decision of four Tory MPs to consider supporting plans put forward by Jeremy Corbyn to block No Deal has prompted calls for them to face votes of no confidence in their respective constituencies.
Such votes are not binding which means even if an MP loses one they are not required to step down.
That means it is very difficult for disgruntled Tory activists to actually get rid of their MP.
However, losing a vote of no confidence would be tremendously embarrassing and would in normal circumstances lead to an MP standing down at the next election on the grounds that they do not carry the support of their constituency.
Campaigning as a Tory candidate without the support of Tory members would be incredibly difficult.
In such a situation it is likely Conservative Party HQ would step in to tell the relevant MP they cannot stand again.
Tory party rules state that a special general meeting can be held to discuss a vote of no confidence if at least 50 activists, or 10 per cent of the association, sign a petition demanding one.
The plan appeared to be dead on arrival yesterday after Ms Swinson’s initially cold reaction.
Ms Swinson, who as Lib Dem leader is now in charge of a grouping of 14 MPs, suggested a temporary unity government should be led by a less divisive figure like Labour veteran Harriet Harman or Tory grandee Ken Clarke.
But amid growing pressure from other Remain-backing MPs, Ms Swinson subsequently tweeted: ‘I’ve offered to meet Jeremy Corbyn to discuss how we can work together on a deliverable plan to stop no-deal, including the option of uniting behind an MP who can command a majority in the House.’
Critics are sceptical about whether Ms Swinson and Mr Corbyn will be able to agree a shared way forward given their different stances on Brexit.
Mr Corbyn’s response to the Lib Dem leader today will have only enhanced that scepticism.
‘It’s not up to Jo Swinson to choose candidates, it’s not up to Jo Swinson to decide who the next prime minister is going to be,’ he said.
‘Surely she must recognise she is a leader of one of the opposition parties who are apparently opposed to this Government, and apparently prepared to support a motion of no confidence.
‘I look forward to joining her in the lobbies to vote this Government down.’
Ms Harman has reportedly told friends she would be willing to step up and lead the nation if MPs asked her to.
Remainers Ken Clarke and Harriet Harman ARE willing to lead a rebel government to block Brexit
Tory grandee Ken Clarke and senior Labour MP Harriet Harman are both prepared lead an emergency government to prevent a no-deal Brexit, it emerged today.
The Father and Mother of the House – the longest serving MPs – were suggested as a more palatable alternative to Jeremy Corbyn, who has proposed becoming caretaker PM to prevent no deal under Boris Johnson.
Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson, who put their names forward, said she has spoken to the pair – who are Father and Mother of the House – and won their assurances they are ready to ‘put public duty first’ to ‘stop us driving off that cliff’.
Ms Swinson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I have been in touch with them because obviously you don’t just mention people’s names without checking that they’re OK with that.
‘They put public duty first, and they don’t want to see a no-deal Brexit, and if the House of Commons asks them to lead an emergency government to get our country out of this Brexit mess and to stop us driving off that cliff to a no deal, then yes, they are prepared to do that and I think that is to their credit.’
The change of heart and the potential support of a handful of Tory Remainers means Mr Corbyn’s plan may yet have a chance of success.
The decision by the Conservative rebels to oppose a No Deal divorce prompted fury among Tory activists in their constituencies as some claimed the MPs were ‘completely at odds’ with voters.
It is also likely to prompt questions about whether they could now face votes of no confidence in their respective constituencies. Mr Grieve lost such a vote earlier this year and has limped on while Mr Bebb has said he will step down at the next election.
It came as it emerged that Mr Johnson is laying the groundwork to make sure the EU’s legal supremacy over UK law ends immediately when Britain leaves the bloc.
The House of Commons voted to repeal the European Communities Act (ECA) of 1972 last year but an order to actually implement that vote was never made when Theresa May was in office as Brexit was delayed.
The Times reported this morning that Stephen Barclay, the Brexit Secretary, will sign the so-called ‘commencement order’ in the coming days which means the ECA will be scrapped in the immediate aftermath of October 31.
The move has delighted Tory Brexiteers who said implementing the decision to repeal the legislation was ‘well overdue’.
The fallout from Mr Corbyn’s letter to opposition leaders and senior Europhile MPs asking them to help him topple Mr Johnson and take power as a caretaker prime minister continued today.
Hammond facing vote of no confidence over anti-No Deal stance
Former chancellor Philip Hammond faces the prospect of a vote of no confidence in his Surrey constituency because of his ardent anti-No Deal Brexit stance.
Mr Hammond coordinated a show of strength from Tory Remainers earlier this week as he attacked Boris Johnson’s Brexit strategy and vowed to fight the UK leaving the EU without an agreement.
But his outspoken opposition to No Deal has reportedly gone down badly with some of the members of the Conservative Association in his Runnymede and Weybridge seat.
Party insiders told The Telegraph that many activists were ‘not best pleased’ at Mr Hammond working against Mr Johnson and there was ‘no doubt’ tensions would boil over in the near future.
It came as senior allies of Mr Johnson savaged Mr Hammond and accused him of being ‘patronising and misleading’.
Iain Duncan Smith, who served as Mr Johnson’s campaign chairman during the Tory leadership race, said Mr Hammond was talking ‘utter nonsense’ over his attempts to interpret what people were voting for at the EU referendum in 2016.
Mr Corbyn said he would take power for a time limited period in order to secure a further Brexit delay and then call a general election to break the Brexit deadlock.
But his plan initially fell flat after many opposition MPs said they could not support a government led by Mr Corbyn.
Meanwhile, it emerged this morning that Sajid Javid will travel to Berlin today for talks with his German opposite number when he is expected to deliver Mr Johnson’s tough Brexit stance in person.
Aides told The Sun that Mr Javid would stress ‘how serious we are about walking away’ from the bloc unless it agrees to Mr Johnson’s demand to renegotiate the existing divorce deal and delete the Irish border backstop.
Mr Corbyn’s letter sparked a political firestorm yesterday as opposition leaders and Tory rebels weighed up whether they could agree to putting him in Downing Street.
Some said they could in order to stop No Deal but others, most notably Ms Swinson, were reluctant.
The decision by the three Tories to meet with Mr Corbyn to discuss his plans provoked a swift backlash as Conservative Eurosceptics suggested they should be kicked out of the party.
And in a sign of the seriousness of the moment Mr Johnson himself appeared to address the rebels directly as he tweeted last night: ‘The referendum result must be respected.
Jo Swinson, pictured delivering a speech in London yesterday, was initially cool on Mr Corbyn’s proposals
But the Lib Dem leader subsequently U-turned and said she would meet with Mr Corbyn to discuss his plans
The parliamentary maths that could put Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street and delay Brexit
Jeremy Corbyn’s plan hinges on a vote of no confidence in Boris Johnson’s Government being successful.
He is planning to potentially call such a vote within days of Parliament returning in September.
After a series of defections and election defeats, the Prime Minister’s majority in the Commons is just one, meaning a tiny rebellion by Remainer Tories could sweep him from No 10 just weeks after getting his key in the door.
Under the Fixed Term Parliaments Act (FTPA), losing a confidence motion triggers a 14 day countdown to an election being called.
During that period it is possible for a prime minister to win a confidence vote and prevent the country going to the polls.
But the same is true of the Opposition leader or indeed any unity candidate that can command enough backing.
Some 650 MPs sit in the Commons. Excluding Sinn Fein’s seven who do not take their seats and the Speaker and three deputies who do not vote, a majority is 320.
Mr Johnson has 311 Tory MPs plus the support of the 10 Democratic Unionist Party parliamentarians, taking him to 321.
This majority of one is set against perhaps half a dozen Labour MPs who back Leave and who do not want it to be delayed and may vote against Jeremy Corbyn or any leader aiming to postpone Brexit.
The question is how many Tories are ready to back a no confidence vote by Mr Corbyn or allow him to become prime minister.
It is a drastic option that would end the careers of any Conservative MPs who join, but only a PM can request an extension to the Article 50 process, and the legal default currently is that the UK leaves at Halloween with or without an agreement.
‘We will leave the EU on 31st October.’
Elsewhere, a top UK constitutional expert today claimed that of all the options which could come to fruition in October, the one with the highest probability was No Deal.
Vernon Bogdanor, a research professor at the Centre for British Politics and Government, told Politico: ‘The default position is that we leave the EU without a deal and so I suppose that is the most likely outcome.’
Mr Johnson inherited a wafer thin Commons majority from Mrs May which means he will need the support of every single one of his MPs to have any chance of winning crunch divisions in the weeks and months ahead.
The rebel Tories were warned they would never be forgiven if they helped topple Mr Johnson and install Mr Corbyn in Number 10.
In their reply to Mr Corbyn’s letter, the trio and ex-Tory MP Nick Boles, who now sits as an independent, wrote that they believed stopping the country leaving the EU without an agreement should be their ‘common priority’ as they agreed to meet in the coming weeks ‘to discuss the different ways that this might be achieved’.
The situation is likely to come to a head next month as MPs opposed to No Deal try to stop Mr Johnson from taking Britain out of the EU on October 31 without an agreement.
Dame Caroline last night said that while she was happy to work with Mr Corbyn on options such as changing the law to block No Deal but she would not vote to bring down the government in a confidence vote.
Mr Grieve said he believed it was ‘unlikely’ Mr Corbyn would succeed in becoming a caretaker prime minister.
He added: ‘But he has written a letter in which he sets out his desire to prevent a No Deal Brexit and on that I am in agreement with him because it is something that is going to have such a catastrophic impact.’
The New Statesman magazine said today that it had seen an email in which Mr Grieve had said he would not do anything to ‘facilitate Jeremy Corbyn’s arrival in Downing Street’.
The rebels immediately came under fire from their constituencies.
Jackson Ng, the chairman of the Tory association in Mr Grieve’s Beaconsfield seat, told The Telegraph: ‘The continuous and thoroughly un-Conservative behaviour being exhibited by Dominic Grieve has become more worrying.
What is the European Communities Act and why do Brexiteers hate it?
The European Communities Act was passed by the UK parliament in 1972 and in simple terms it brought the UK into the EU.
Crucially it gives EU law supremacy over British domestic legislation.
This is the main reason Brexiteers hate the Act – they believe it represents the exact moment when Britain lost much of its sovereignty.
Much of the EU law which is currently in effect in the UK is reliant on the ECA to function.
And while MPs have agreed to repeal the Act the process will see existing decisions and judgments adopted into British law to make sure the domestic legal system does not fall off a cliff when the UK does finally leave the EU.
However, once the Act has been repealed it will be UK law which is supreme, rather than EU law.
‘Should he entertain the idea of siding with Jeremy Corbyn or any other government other than the existing Conservative Government being led by Boris Johnson, he will leave us with no choice at all as an association.’
Activists in Mr Grieve have already won a vote of no confidence against him in his Beaconsfield constituency over his Brexit position.
But such votes are not binding and Mr Grieve has said he intends to remain the Tory candidate in the seat.
A party insider in Sir Oliver’s West Dorset seat echoed a similar sentiment and said: ‘We are completely at odds with our MP over this.’
Tory figures last night urged caution about working with Mr Corbyn.
Backbencher Michael Fabricant said: ‘It is remarkable that given that the Lib Dems think this offer from Jeremy Corbyn is a big joke, some of my colleagues are taking it seriously. As a former government whip, I hope that their action will not be forgotten.’
Former minister Greg Hands added: ‘Corbyn only became Labour leader because his MPs didn’t think it could actually happen. Now he could become Prime Minister because a Conservative MP makes the same mistake.’
The letter sent by Jeremy Corbyn setting out how he intends to stop a No Deal Brexit
Jon Conway, a member of Mr Grieve’s local Tory association in Beaconsfield who has been leading efforts to remove him, said that it was wrong for him to be fighting Mr Johnson’s Brexit pledge just weeks after the Prime Minister won the overwhelming support of the party membership.
He said: ‘People in the constituency are appalled that he still claims to represent us.’
Separately, Mr Bebb yesterday declared he would rather back the Labour leader as a caretaker prime minister than allow Boris Johnson to take the country out of the EU without an agreement.
‘A short-term Jeremy Corbyn government is less damaging than the generational damage that would be caused by a No Deal Brexit,’ the Tory MP told the BBC.
Cabinet minister Grant Shapps last night urged his Tory colleagues to ‘think very, very carefully’ about the dangers of helping Mr Corbyn into power.
The Transport Secretary said: ‘It’s absolutely extraordinary that any Conservative MP considered even for one minute installing Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.
‘Jeremy Corbyn would wreck our economy, he would destroy jobs and the livelihoods, savings, I think he also can’t be trusted with security or crime.’
In an appeal to Tory MPs thinking about working with Mr Corbyn, Mr Shapps added: ‘I just say to them you know you really need to think very very carefully about installing Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street. It absolutely cannot happen for the sake of this country.’
The Tory Remainer rebels plotting to block a No Deal Brexit
Once part of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, Sir Oliver Letwin backed the poll tax fiasco which helped end her tenure
Sir Oliver Letwin
Once part of Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, Sir Oliver Letwin backed the poll tax fiasco which helped end her tenure.
A memo from the time revealed he blamed the 1985 Broadwater Farm riots in North London, on the ‘bad moral attitudes’.
The Eton and Cambridge-educated MP for West Dorset, 63, joined the Cabinet as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster under David Cameron.
His constituency voted 51-49 in favour of Leave in the 2016 referendum.
A journalist once confronted him while he was wearing a toga at a party after it emerged he had put forward £20million of unplanned spending cuts.
Former Tory party chairman Dame Caroline Spelman was environment secretary under David Cameron
Dame Caroline Spelman
Former Tory party chairman Dame Caroline Spelman was environment secretary under David Cameron.
The Tory MP for Meriden in the West Midlands, 61, was criticised in 2008 for using her parliamentary allowance to pay her children’s former nanny.
The mother of three was environment secretary for two years under David Cameron.
She was made a dame in 2017 for political and public service, but has now joined forces with Labour MP Jack Dromey to ensure Britain leaves with a deal.
She also masterminded a letter to Theresa May calling on her to rule out the prospect of leaving the EU without a deal.
Her constituency voted 58-42 in favour of Leave in the 2016 referendum.
The former attorney general Dominic Grieve is one of the most vocal opponents of Brexit to be found in the Commons
The former attorney general Dominic Grieve is one of the most vocal opponents of Brexit to be found in the Commons.
He is the President of the Franco-British Society and a fluent French speaker whose maternal family is French.
The Tory MP for Beaconsfield – which backed Remain 51-49 in the 2016 referendum) is also a QC and has sought a legislative route to oppose Brexit, claiming it will bring chaos to the UK.
The 63-year-old has previously tabled a number of Commons amendments to try to prevent the UK leaving the EU. He is facing the threat of deselection by his local party.
Mr Grieve was sacked from the Cabinet by David Cameron in 2014, claiming this was because of his support for the European Court of Human Rights.
He has been outspoken in his opposition to Boris Johnson and his adviser Dominic Cummings, whom he branded ‘arrogant’.
He lost a no confidence vote motion at the Beaconsfield association’s annual general meeting in March.
In an extraordinary move, backbencher Guto Bebb (pictured above) yesterday declared he would rather install the Labour leader as a caretaker prime minister than allow Boris Johnson to take the country out of the EU without an agreement
Aberconwy MP Guto Bebb has already announced he plans to quit the Tories at the next election because he is so opposed to Boris Johnson and a no Deal Brexit.
Yesterday he was the most outspoken rebel when he said that a short-term Jeremy Corbyn Government would be less damaging than leaving without a deal on Halloween.
He urged his colleagues to listen to the Labour leader’s offer to be a caretaker PM in comments that infuriated Brexiteers.
The Tory MP for Aberconwy in North Wales since 2010 he was formerly a member of Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru.
A former defence minister under Theresa May he quit in July last year to join other pro-European Tory rebels to vote against the Government. Mr Bebb, who campaigned for Remain ahead of the referendum, dramatically quit before walking through the division lobbies with 13 other Tory rebels including Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve, Nicky Morgan, Antoinette Sandbach and then-Tory Dr Sarah Wollaston.
His constituency voted 52-48 in favour of Leave in the 2016 referendum.