Theresa May’s plans for cross-party co-operation on Brexit were condemned after it emerged that she was not seeking to involve Jeremy Corbyn despite Tuesday’s historic defeat of her plan.
Andrea Leadsom admitted Labour’s leader had not been invited to cross-party talks and indicated that Corbyn needed to say what he wanted from Brexit before being invited to speak to the prime minister.
May offered cross-party talks after MPs rejected her deal by a majority of 230, with more than a third of Conservatives rebelling.
With only 72 days to go before Britain leaves, however, Labour MPs demanded that she extend article 50 to give time for a consensus to be found.
Leadsom told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that Corbyn had not been invited because he was primarily interested in forcing a general election instead of striking a Brexit deal.
“Let us look at what Jeremy Corbyn is doing here,” she said. “He had the opportunity to put to the house what is proposals were. He clearly hasn’t any and what he seeks to do is to disrupt government and the nation at a crucial time as he seeks a general election.
The PM will be engaging right across the house with people … who want to talk constructively.”
Labour has insisted it has a clear policy of seeking a customs union and maintaining workers’ rights.
Responding to Leadsom, the Labour MP Yvette Cooper wrote on Twitter: “Leadsom making a mockery of Theresa May’s proposal for cross-party talks this morning. Ludicrous & unworkable if PM won’t even talk to @jeremycorbyn & other party leaders. PM has to accept she failed by 230 votes – she can’t just keep digging in.”
Further criticism of the government’s plan for cross-party talks came from Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP first minister of Scotland, who said that May would have to review her “red lines” for cross-party talks to be successful.
“If none of PM’s red lines change, what progress can she possibly make?” she wrote on Twitter.
No 10 said on Tuesday, after the vote, that the same principles that governed May’s Brexit deal would be applied to a future deal.
We want to deliver an orderly Brexit with a deal. One that protects our union, gives us control of our borders, laws and money, and means we have an independent trade policy,” a Downing Street spokesman said.
May offered to establish talks with “senior parliamentarians” after MPs rejected her deal by a majority of 230.
The prime minister will face a vote of no confidence in parliament on Wednesday, which she is expected to survive with the support of the DUP and pro-Brexit Conservative MPs.
Asked whether the government might accept an invitation by some EU leaders to delay Brexit, Leadsom told Today: “We are clear we won’t be delaying article 50. We won’t be revoking it.”
Labour confirmed on Wednesday morning that May’s government had not yet reached out to the official opposition to establish talks over how to get a deal through parliament.
Interviewed on the same programme, John McDonnell said the government had not approached Labour’s leader to discuss how to draw up a new Brexit plan, despite the prime minister’s pledge to hold talks.
“When the prime minister indicated she was likely to talk across the house, she said she would speak to leading MPs. We have not had any approach from the prime minister to Jeremy Corbyn and we don’t think the other parties have either,” the shadow chancellor said.
McDonnell called on May to extend article 50 to give time for a consensus to be found. He also refused to rule out supporting a second referendum, or so-called people’s vote.
Corbyn is under increasing pressure from MPs to support a second referendum. David Lammy, the Tottenham MP, said he was one of nearly 100 Labour MPs who were urging Corbyn to spell out what the party wanted instead of leaving all options on the table.
“If he [Corbyn] vacillates and sits on the fence I’m afraid he is going to get splinters in a place he doesn’t want,” he said.
Gus O’Donnell, the former cabinet secretary, said senior civil servants across Whitehall would have the huge task of preparing for a possible no-deal Brexit, a possible softer Brexit and a possible general election as it waited for the government and parliament to decide how to proceed.
“You have to be ready for a general election and asking the government if you can start preparing for a general election. Are we saying customs union, a softer Brexit or a harder Brexit?” he said.
“As we speak, there are a lot of civil servants being transferred across to work across all departments. They are going to have to work around the clock.”
Two hundred and two MPs voted in favour of May’s deal, with 432 against. The previous biggest meaningful defeat of a prime minister was in 1924, when Ramsay MacDonald’s short-lived minority Labour government lost by 166 votes.Among Tory MPs, 118 voted against May’s deal, compared with 196 who backed it. Only three Labour MPs, along with three independents, supported the prime minister.