Jeremy Corbyn blames ‘confusion’ for Brexit meeting walkout
Jeremy Corbyn has blamed “confusion” over meeting plans for his decision to walk out of talks between the Prime Minister and opposition leaders.
He revealed he expects to meet Theresa May again next week for one-to-one talks on the Brexit crisis.
The Labour leader was branded “juvenile” after pulling out of the Brexit talks called by Mrs May on Wednesday evening because members of the breakaway Independent Group were present.
He was said to have walked away when Chuka Umunna – one of eight Labour MPs to quit the party join the new Independent Group – arrived with former Tory Anna Soubry. He later held separate talks with Mrs May alone.
A startled Mr Umunna said it was an “extraordinary” way for the leader of the Opposition to behave at a time of national crisis.
Mr Corbyn was also sharply criticised by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable, who was at the meeting.
“Jeremy Corbyn’s kinder, gentler politics was found wanting this evening as he stomped out of the meeting with the Prime Minister before it began, rather than breathe the same air as Chuka Umunna,” Sir Vince wrote on Twitter.
Asked about the meeting during a visit to Brussels on Thursday, Mr Corbyn said: “There was a confusion over that meeting. I had a separate and very extensive discussion with the Prime Minister later on.
“I am also arranging to meet the Prime Minister next week again on a one-to-one basis as leader of the Opposition to the Prime Minister.
“I have met with all the leaders of all the other parties in Parliament in my office this week and Keir (Starmer) has also met with delegations from all across the House of Commons.
“We have done a great deal to listen very carefully and try to construct a majority that can bring about a resolution to this crisis.”
A Labour spokesman said on Wednesday that Mr Corbyn had not taken part in the meeting with other opposition leaders because it was “not the meeting that had been agreed” and the “terms were broken”.
At the party’s local election launch in Stoke-on-Trent, Labour chairman Ian Lavery rejected attacks on the leader.
“You might perhaps wish to say that Jeremy was juvenile but what I would say is that Jeremy had agreed with the Prime Minister the certain criteria … she broke the agreement immediately,” he said.
“The reality is Jeremy is trying to resolve this in the best interests of everybody – not just the 48% not just the 52% – we need to get together, we need to get rid of this horrible hatred and this toxic nature right through our communities – that’s what Jeremy is doing.
“To call him juvenile is widely inaccurate, and I’m being extremely polite.”
Labour MP Ian Murray tweeted an ironic attack on the leader, suggesting Mr Umunna was more likely that Mr Corbyn to promote Labour’s policy of keeping a second referendum on the table.
“As for Jeremy Corbyn. He was right to walk out of talks with the PM tonight because @ChukaUmunna was attending,” said Mr Murray.
“Chuka would have championed what is Labour Party policy on a public vote.
“How dare Chuka champion the policy of Labour members? That’s the leadership’s job. Disgraceful.”