There is a “real chance of a significant group” of Labour MPs breaking away from the party and if that happens the Liberal Democrats “will work with them in some form”, Sir Vince Cable has claimed.
His comments came as reports in The Observer suggested that “at least” six Labour MPs were preparing to quit the party and form a centre group.
Lib Dem leader Sir Vince said the figure of six seemed “very much at the lower end of the figures quoted to me, but again we’ll see, it’s their choice, not mine”.
The former coalition business secretary said it was “very likely” he would lead his party into any early general election, but added “there are so many uncertainties at the moment”.
Of his party’s prospects, he added: “There is a lot of optimism in the party, we’re at record levels of membership.
“People are now joining us in disgust at the Labour Party, I’m very positive, I think we’ve made real progress and if there is an early election, we’ll do surprisingly well.”
Asked if he had been approached, he told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday: “Yes, indeed, it’s well reported for months that there is actually a much bigger group of Labour MPs, not just six, who are deeply unhappy with (Jeremy) Corbyn’s leadership and don’t see any future (in the Labour Party).”
On discussions, he added: “Oh yes indeed, well there’s Conservatives as well, it’s not just the Labour Party. I think as of now they are basically working with us to stop Brexit, to try and get a People’s Vote. There is a very strong group of people working as a team to try and deliver that.
“I think when the Brexit issue is resolved one way or another, I think they will reconsider their position in the Labour Party.
“I can’t predict exactly what will happen but I think there’s a real chance of a significant group breaking away and if that happens we will work with them in some form.”
Asked if the Lib Dems would “effectively be subsumed” into another party, he added: “No, we’re not subsuming ourselves into anything, but I don’t know exactly what form this could take. It partly depends on the events of the next few weeks actually around Brexit.”
He added: “There are all kind of possibilities but I think where there are common values we will operate together.
“It’s very difficult to set up a new party under the first past the post system, I think they recognise that and it will be sensible if we do have common values and common interests that we work together in some way, but that’s some way down the track.”
Asked how many MPs that could include, he added: “I don’t know, the figure of six this morning seems very much at the lower end of the figures quoted to me but again we’ll see, it’s their choice, not mine.”