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'A total waste of time': Still no agreement from cross-party Brexit talks

Aside from stopping no-deal Brexit, opposition leaders (L-R) Ian Blackford, Jeremy Corbyn, Jo Swinson and Caroline Lucas, have been unable to agree on very much. Credit: PA

Another opposition leaders meeting took place today and another week went by where the different parties could not reach an agreement.

They were at loggerheads over what their strategy should be to stop Boris Johnson taking the UK out of the EU on the October 31 with no deal and there were two major strands of disagreement.

The first is over who should be in charge of a potential caretaker government if we got to the stage of the opposition seeking to remove Mr Johnson from office.

The Labour Party confirmed they would be unwilling to back anyone other than Jeremy Corbyn taking over as a caretaker Prime Minister.

But the Liberal Democrats are insistent that Mr Corbyn does not have the support of the House of Commons to make this reality and in particular, they argue that the 21 Tory rebels, will not vote for him.

A senior Liberal Democrat source said Labour's position and "their total unwillingness to work with anyone else makes [them] the biggest barrier to stopping no-deal."

A source close to the Labour leadership responded, saying that "constitutionally it is the Leader of the Opposition who takes over if the government is toppled and it is not up to the Liberal Democrats to decide who that should be."

Boris Johnson is determined to 'get Brexit done'. Credit: PA

This argument has gone on for a few weeks now and it is the SNP who have grown most frustrated by it.

They have said they would be willing to back Mr Corbyn and Ian Blackford - SNP leader in Westminster - has been very vocal about his wish of removing Mr Johnson from Downing Street sooner rather than later.

After today’s meeting an SNP source said it was a "total waste of time" and claimed another week was going by without action being taken.

The source took aim at the Lib Dems and said they were "squabbling over who gets to be the interim prime minister and as a result we are no further forward and Boris Johnson is still in office."

The second major disagreement came during discussions about potentially using Standing Order 24 (SO24), to call emergency debates to take control of parliamentary business.

I was told that Labour whips had informed their MPs over the weekend that there would be a three-line whip for Monday and Tuesday, indicating that something rather significant was in the works.

The plan was, I’m told, was to table what would have been the "mother of all SO24s".

It would have allowed opposition leaders to take control of parliamentary business whenever they felt they had a majority on an issue from now through till October 31.

The idea was that it would stop the need to regularly table SO24s and opposition leaders would essentially have more influence and control than ever before.

It would have been a rather bold move but it is understood that some of the 21 Conservative rebels - those sacked from the party for voting to implement the no-deal blocking Benn Act - were not convinced by the measure.

  • Watch: SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford on cross-party talks

"In truth, the detail for it was not fully nailed down," an opposition source said.

"It was being pushed by the former Tory 21 but it was also pulled by them.

"We will take their cue as to when they feel confident they have the numbers and feel able to deliver on the mooted SO24."

While it seems nothing has been agreed there does seem to be some agreement on ensuring the government complies with the so-called Benn Act.

In their final words, one source told me when caught up after today’s meeting was that “arguments might be ongoing, but we all want to make sure the government follows the Benn Act."

It seems the parties are united about the final outcome but not united on the route to get them there.