The Brexit crisis engulfing UK politics has deepened after Theresa May told Jeremy Corbyn it was “impossible” to rule out no-deal.
The Prime Minister faced a chorus of demands from opposition MPs to take crashing out of the EU on March 29 off the table after she made the claim in a letter to the Labour leader.
It came after May had invited opposition leaders to Downing Street in the wake of her Withdrawal Agreement being crushed in parliament, but Corbyn refused.
He told her that “the starting point for any talks about breaking the Brexit deadlock must be that the threat of disastrous no-deal outcome is ruled out”.
But May has said his price for face-to-face talks is an “impossible condition” and not within the government’s power.
She writes: “I note that you have said that ‘ruling out’ no deal is a precondition before we can meet, but that is an impossible condition because it is not within the Government’s power to rule out no deal.
“Let me explain why. Under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union and the Withdrawal Act 2018, we will leave the EU without a deal on 29 March unless Parliament either agrees a deal with the EU or the UK revokes article 50 and chooses to stay in the EU permanently.”
But critics have called her “stubborn” and have pointed out a European Court of Justice ruling last year, which said that the UK government does have the legal power to unilaterally revoke Article 50.
May also appeared to be at odds with her chancellor, Phillip Hammond, who told business leaders in a leaked conference call conversation that the threat of crashing out without a deal could be taken off the table within days.
May also took Corbyn to task over a note he sent to Labour MPs asking them “not to engage” with the government until the threat of a no-deal was squashed.
“As politicians, we have a responsibility not to simply say what we want, but also to explain how we can achieve it,” she said.
“I recognise that you would want to put forward your own proposals and I would be happy to discuss them with you.
“You have always believed in the importance of dialogue in politics.
“Do you really believe that, as well as declining to meet for talks yourself, it is right to ask your MPs not to seek a solution with the government?”
Despite the letter, however, it is understood that several Labour MPs have been to Downing Street to meet the PM, including Yvette Cooper, Hilary Benn and John Mann.
Benn and Cooper both appealed to the PM to rule out no-deal.
When asked whether Corbyn should meet May, Benn, who is chair of the Commons’ Brexit committee, replied: “That is a decision for Jeremy to take.
“He’s demonstrating that it’s not just the Prime Minister who can be stubborn - there is a step she can take and Jeremy Corbyn is quite right to say to her, as all of us have, you must take no-deal off the table.”