The British government has insisted that cross-party talks to find a consensus on Theresa May’s Brexit plans have been “constructive,” despite the refusal of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to engage in discussions with the prime minister unless she categorically rules out the possibility of the U.K. leaving the European Union without a deal.
As leader of the largest opposition party in the Westminster Parliament, Corbyn has issued an order instructing his own MPs (Members of Parliament) that they should not hold meetings with Conservative opponents unless that specific precondition is satisfied. But a Downing Street spokesperson told reporters Thursday night that further government meetings with Labour lawmakers were expected Friday.
After her narrow victory in a parliamentary confidence vote late Wednesday, May had said she would be prepared to engage with opposition party leaders in a “constructive” spirit, to find a way forward after her Brexit proposals were crushingly rejected earlier in the week.
But she has responded to Corbyn’s demand with a letter of her own, in which she insists that it was not in the government’s power to rule out “no deal.” She reiterated that such a move was “impossible” unless Parliament had voted in favor of a specific deal, or unless the government were to revoke Article 50 of Europe’s Lisbon Treaty.
She wrote that a revocation of that treaty clause, which governs a member state’s potential exit process from the EU, would mean overturning the result of the 2016 referendum, and this would be “wrong.”
The heads of the five smaller opposition parties have already agreed to meet with the prime minister, and those conversations will likely continue over the weekend. Corbyn’s insistence on this particular precondition seems to have jeopardized his relationship with at least one of those parties.
Vince Cable, Britain’s former business secretary who now leads the 11-member Liberal Democrat bloc in parliament, criticized Corbyn’s approach and said he would not support Labour in any future no-confidence motion if the Labour leader maintained his current stance.