Theresa May is wasting £171,000-an-hour on “dangerous and unnecessary no-deal brinkmanship”, Jeremy Corbyn has claimed.
The Labour leader said he would not engage in cross-party Brexit talks with the prime minister – triggered after May’s deal suffered a historic blow in the Commons on Tuesday – until she agreed to scrap the prospect of no-deal.
“May’s ‘no deal’ threat is empty and hugely expensive, wasting billions of pounds we should be spending on vital public services,” Corbyn said.
“It’s a pointless and damaging attempt to appease a faction in her own party when she now needs to reach out to overcome this crisis.”
According to calculations by Labour, the government has already spent £1.9 billion preparing in case the UK crashes out of the EU without a deal – the equivalent of £171,000-an-hour in tax-payers money.
The investment could have been used to pay the yearly salaries of 86,000 newly-qualified nurses, 50,000 secondary school teachers or 49,000 police constables, the party said.
“If the prime minister is serious about finding a solution that can command support in parliament and bring our country together, she must listen to the majority of MPs, as well as members of her own cabinet, and take ‘no-deal’ off the table.”
The Labour leader’s comments come after he unsuccessfully attempted to force a general election by tabling a confidence motion in the government last week.
While May survived the vote 325-306, Corbyn has signalled he could make repeated attempts in a bid to trigger an election.
“There are a small group in our party who are so frustrated, who have so much grievance, the fear is they are going to go off and form another party,” the Tottenham MP told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme.
“I personally reject that,” he continued. “But the danger is, just like 1983, a new party built around a relationship with Europe keeps the Labour Party out of power for a generation.”
A spokesperson for the government said: “A responsible government must plan for every eventuality, including a no-deal scenario. We are intensifying and accelerating no-deal planning to ensure we are fully prepared.
“And that’s why we’ve allocated £2 billion in funding to support government departments’ core Brexit preparations for 2019/20, with more than 25 governments and arms-length bodies receiving funding which apply in both ‘deal’ and ‘no-deal’ scenarios.”