Corbyn rallies opposition in bid to block no-deal Brexit

The leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party has brought together political leaders to thrash out a way forward.

    Jeremy Corbyn is attempting to unify Britain's opposition to no-deal Brexit [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]
    Jeremy Corbyn is attempting to unify Britain's opposition to no-deal Brexit [File: Toby Melville/Reuters]

    Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has been working on Tuesday to bridge deep divisions with other opposition parties on how to avoid Britain crashing out of the European Union on October 31.

    Corbyn said he would "do everything necessary" to stop a no-deal Brexit, following leaked official warnings that this could lead to food, fuel and medicine shortages.

    After cross-party talks led by Corbyn, a co-ordinated effort has been promised to thwart plans to leave the EU without a deal.

    A joint statement from Labour, the SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and the Independent Group for Change said: "The attendees agreed that Boris Johnson has shown himself open to using anti-democratic means to force through no deal.

    "The attendees agreed on the urgency to act together to find practical ways to prevent No Deal, including the possibility of passing legislation and a vote of no confidence."

    The Labour leader has said he plans to call a no-confidence vote against Prime Minister Boris Johnson next week and, if he wins it, as the head of the largest opposition party, would be ready to lead a caretaker government, delay Brexit and hold a fresh general election.

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    Labour would then campaign on a platform to hold a second Brexit referendum - with "remain in the EU" being one of the options.

    'Legislative approach'

    It was a plan that had the support of several parliamentary leaders, but new Liberal Democrat chief Jo Swinson, whose party is ostensibly committed to blocking Brexit, opposes the Labour leader taking power, even for a strictly time-limited tenure.

    The Lib-Dems' 15 MPs will be crucial in swinging the confidence vote against Johnson one way or the other.

    But Tuesday's talks saw leaders agree to prioritise a legislative approach, suggesting Corbyn will not immediately press ahead with the vote of no confidence in Johnson's administration.

    SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said those at the meeting had committed to "work together effectively to prevent a catastrophic no-deal".

    He said Johnson had "no mandate or majority" and the numbers were stacking up against him.

    "Parliament must grasp this opportunity, unite to stop Boris Johnson shutting down democracy - and be ready to use all mechanisms to block a no-deal disaster, including deploying legislation as a priority," he said.

    Independent Group for Change leader Anna Soubry said: "We agree we will work together to stop a no-deal Brexit by legislation."

    Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price added: "We committed to work co-operatively with every other opposition party and do everything in our power to avoid a catastrophic crash-out Brexit."

    Before Tuesday's talks, Corbyn wrote in the Independent that Johnson was "cosying up to" US President Donald Trump in the hope of securing a free trade deal after Brexit.

    "A No Deal Brexit is really a Trump Deal Brexit," he said.

    "It won't return sovereignty, it will put us at the mercy of Trump and the big US corporations," Corbyn wrote.

    "I hope we can come to a good working arrangement and bring on board others across parliament who see the danger of a No Deal crash out," he said.

    Speaking to BBC radio, the Lib-Dems' Swinson said she would be willing to discuss all possible options "because we do not have a lot of time".

    Constitutional crisis

    Britain's parliament is not due to return from their summer holidays until next week.

    But anti-Brexit politicians have been discussing plans ever since Johnson came to power last month promising to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 with or without a divorce deal with Brussels.

    Johnson has said he is hoping for a deal with EU leaders, describing the chances as "marginally" higher following G7 talks over the weekend.

    But Johnson has not ruled out suspending parliament, which could lead to another huge constitutional crisis, to allow a no-deal Brexit if he fails to come to an agreement with the EU in the next weeks.

    Labour's Brexit spokesman Keir Starmer has said suspending parliament - known as "proroguing" - would be "unlawful" and "completely unacceptable".

    The political impasse has raised the chances of a general election and politicians of all stripes are preparing.

    The Brexit Party, which came first in European elections earlier this year and which advocates a no-deal Brexit, is presenting its candidates at a launch event on Tuesday.

    Britain voted to leave the EU in a 2016 referendum but has already been forced to delay its exit twice after parliament opposed a deal struck with Brussels under Johnson's predecessor Theresa May.

    "Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party will do anything to try and block delivering the change that British people voted for in the referendum," the Conservatives said in a statement.

    "Only Boris Johnson and the Conservatives can provide the leadership the UK needs to deliver Brexit by 31 October, whatever the circumstances," the statement said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies