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U.K. Lawmaker Rejects Jeremy Corbyn’s Call to Lead Caretaker Government


LONDON — A leading opposition lawmaker has thrown cold water on a proposal by the leader of Britain’s Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, aimed at preventing Britain from leaving the European Union without a deal.

In a letter sent on Wednesday to other opposition party leaders and rebel members of the governing Conservative Party, Mr. Corbyn urged lawmakers to back a no-confidence vote against the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and to allow Mr. Corbyn to lead a “strictly time-limited, temporary government” with the aim of calling a general election and extending the Brexit deadline.

Mr. Corbyn also said he was committed to a public vote on the terms of leaving the European Union, including the option to remain.

But on Thursday, Jo Swinson, the newly elected leader of the anti-Brexit Liberal Democrat Party, rejected Mr. Corbyn’s proposal, saying that while Britain might need an emergency government, he could not be its leader because he would not be able to command a majority in the House of Commons.

“Instead of doing everything in his power to stop us from crashing out, he is demanding the keys to Number 10 as a precondition for a vote of no confidence,” Ms. Swinson said in a televised speech.

Ms. Swinson proposed Ken Clarke, a former Conservative chancellor, and Harriet Harman, a former Labour deputy leader, as “respected” lawmakers who would be better placed to lead the emergency government.

“Of course Jeremy Corbyn wants to be prime minister; so do I,” she added. “But what we really need to do now is save our country from a catastrophic no-deal Brexit.”

Although Parliament is in recess and will not return before September, that has not stopped lawmakers and party leaders from jockeying furiously to increase their leverage when the legislature reconvenes.

Much of the activity has been prompted by Mr. Johnson’s insistence that Britain would leave the European Union on Oct. 31, with or without a deal, and his refusal to meet with the bloc’s leaders on the grounds that they are unwilling to make changes to a withdrawal agreement drafted by his predecessor, Theresa May.

Also on Thursday, a group of Conservative rebels — Oliver Letwin, Dominic Grieve and Caroline Spelman — as well as an independent lawmaker, Nick Boles, said in a joint letter that they had agreed to meet with Mr. Corbyn to discuss ways of preventing a no-deal Brexit, but they did not comment on whether they would back him as a temporary leader.

“We agree that our common priority should be to work together in Parliament to prevent no-deal Brexit and welcome your invitation to discuss the different ways that this might be achieved,” they said, addressing Mr. Corbyn.

Ian Blackford, the leader of the Scottish National Party’s Westminster group, said he would also be pleased to work with Mr. Corbyn.

A spokesman for Downing Street said that Mr. Corbyn’s proposal confronted Britons with a stark choice: “Either Jeremy Corbyn as a prime minister who will overrule the referendum and wreck the economy, or Boris Johnson as prime minister who will respect the referendum and deliver more money for the N.H.S. and more police on our streets,” he said, referring to the National Health Service.

“This government believes the people are the masters and votes should be respected; Jeremy Corbyn believes that the people are the servants and politicians can cancel public votes they don’t like.”


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