Labour has demanded Theresa May kill off a no-deal Brexit as the price of talks with Jeremy Corbyn about finding a way out of the crisis that has paralysed Westminster politics.
After seeing off a no-confidence vote called by the opposition leader, the Prime Minister announced she would invite party leaders in the Commons and other MPs in for discussions to get a Parliamentary consensus.
But she appears to face an uphill struggle after all the opposition party leaders demanded scrapping the possibility of no-deal as a condition of progress, while Labour refused to even sit down with the PM until the concession was guaranteed.
She was “disappointed” Mr Corbyn had “chosen not to take part, but our door remains open”.
Mrs May did hold talks with Lib-Dem leader Sir Vince Cable, SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville-Roberts late on Wednesday.
But Downing Street refused to make such a concession, with the Prime Minister’s official spokesman saying: “We want to leave with a deal but she is determined to deliver on the verdict of the British public and that is to leave the EU on March 29 this year.”
Asked by a reporter if he was “taking no-deal off the table” in response to the opposition leader’s demand, the spokesman replied: “I am not.”
Conservative Party chairman Brandon Lewis said on Thursday Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on talking with Theresa May is “hypocritical”.
He accused Labour of “playing politics rather than getting real”.
Speaking in Downing Street on Wednesday night, the Prime Minister urged politicians to “put self-interest aside” and reach an agreement on a Brexit plan.
May said: “It will not be an easy task, but MPs know they have a duty to act in the national interest, reach a consensus and get this done.”
But Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said he would not be meeting with the Prime Minister until no-deal was taken off the table, accusing her of “blackmail”.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Prime Minister secured victory on a no-confidence vote by a margin of 325 to 306 after all 10 DUP MPs joined 314 Conservative MPs and Independent Lady Sylvia Hermon to vote against it.
The vote was tabled by Mr Corbyn and came less than 24 hours after the crushing defeat of her EU Withdrawal Agreement in the House of Commons.
Mrs May’s official spokesman also said she would meet with eurosceptic MPs in her own party, who accepted an invitation, on Thursday.
In a letter written to Mrs May after meeting with her on Wednesday, SNP Parliamentary leader Ian Blackford said ruling out a no-deal Brexit, an extension of Article 50 and the option of a second referendum would have to form “the basis” of cross-party Brexit talks for his party to be involved.
Mr Blackford warned her that the Scottish nationalists needed “a clear indication of willingness on the side of the Government for these to be genuine negotiations”.
In her statement tonight, the Prime Minister reiterated her determination to deliver on the referendum.
She said: “This evening the Government has won the confidence of Parliament.
“Overwhelmingly, the British people want us to get on with delivering Brexit.
“I believe it is my duty to deliver on the British people’s instruction to leave the European Union and I intend to do so.”
But a spokesman for Jeremy Corbyn said: “The blackmail is that by attempting to run down the clock and hold the threat of the country going over a cliff-edge into a no-deal outcome… that makes it more difficult to reach a real and effective deal.”
In her point of order to the Commons after the vote, the Prime Minister said: “I do not take this responsibility lightly and my Government will continue its work to increase our prosperity, guarantee our security and to strengthen our union.
“We will also continue to work to deliver on the solemn promise we made to the people of this country to deliver on the result of the referendum and leave the European Union.”
She said: “The House has put its confidence in this Government.
“I stand ready to work with any member of this House to deliver on Brexit and ensure that this House retains the confidence of the British people.”
In response, Labour leader Mr Corbyn said: “Last night the House rejected the Government’s deal emphatically.
“A week ago the House voted to condemn the idea of a no-deal Brexit.
“Before there can be any positive discussions about the way forward, the Government must remove clearly once and for all the prospect of the catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit from the EU and all the chaos that would come as a result of that.”
Labour launched the bid to oust the government after Mrs May’s Brexit plan was overwhelmingly rejected by 432 votes to 202.
Mr Corbyn has frequently called for a general election, but after his failed no-confidence motion this option seems less likely for now.
Campaigners for a second EU referendum had stepped up their efforts, with 71 Labour MPs signing a letter demanding their party commit itself “unequivocally” to a public vote.
With the UK scheduled to exit the EU in just over 10 weeks’ time on March 29, the Prime Minister has until next Monday to return to the Commons and present a “Plan B” option.
Pensions minister Guy Opperman said he believes it is still possible to get cross-party backing for some form of Brexit deal.
Asked whether that might include a deal which keeps Britain in the customs union, he said: “I think that has to be thrashed out – whether it’s a Norway option, whether it’s a customs union option or whether it is an alternative version.
He added: “The bottom line is there has to be a reaching out to all political parties, which includes the Labour leadership and the key Labour backbenchers of Yvette Cooper, Hillary Benn and the like.
“I suspect that once the Labour party genuinely engages in this process the Withdrawal Agreement doesn’t change, it’s the political agreement that is the fundamental difference of opinion between the two parties and the way in which we are progressing.”