In an interview with The Independent, the Labor leader said he believed the prime minister and her allies were engaged in a “cynical maneuver” to run down the clock and offer MPs the “choice of the devil or the deep blue sea.”
His remarks come as the Commons prepares to vote on the UK-EU deal in the week beginning 14 January – in what is being billed as the most significant moment in parliament for a generation.
With just 91 days remaining until Britain formally leaves the European Union, Mr Corbyn also reiterated it is a matter of “when, not if” Labor attempts to force a general election by tabling a motion of no confidence in the government, which he signaled will come in the aftermath of Ms May’s deal failing to receive MPs’ backing.
But he refused to be drawn on whether a Labor government would seek to extend Article 50, given that just weeks would remain for any renegotiation of Britain’s exit from the bloc, and claimed: “Lots of things are possible, the EU has long form on reopening and extending negotiations, but let’s not jump too many hoops when we haven’t arrived at them.”
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Speaking in his constituency office in Islington, north London, ahead of Christmas Day, he poured scorn on the prime minister’s decision earlier this month to pull a vote on the deal in the face of near-certain defeat and instead begin a last-ditch attempt to seek assurances from the EU to assuage Brexiteers’ concerns over the contentious issue of the Irish backstop.
Pressed on whether he believed Ms May should now recall parliament a week early, on 2 January, the Labor leader replied: “Well it is in her hands to recall parliament. I want us to have a vote as soon as possible, that’s what I’ve been saying for the past two weeks, and if that means recalling parliament to have the vote let’s have it.
“But it looks to me the government has once again reneged on that and tried to put it back another week. We need to have that vote so a decision of parliament can be made. What I suspect is that it’s a completely cynical maneuver to run down the clock and offer MPs the choice of the devil or the deep blue sea.”
The House was last recalled during the EU referendum campaign in June 2016 to pay tributes to the murdered Labour MP Jo Cox. This was the 29th recall during a recess period since 1948. Other issues MPs have been ordered back to Westminster over included a debate over the use of chemical weapons in Syria in 2013, and the riots in London and other English cities in 2011.
In order for parliament to be recalled, the speaker of the Commons, John Bercow, must receive a formal request from the government which he would then consider and make a judgment on.
As it stands, MPs will return on 7 January after a two week Christmas recess, but the prime minister has already summoned her cabinet a week earlier on 2 January to discuss no-deal preparations.
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Mr Corbyn added that the government should not have gone into recess without a vote on the deal: “The prime minister and the Tory chief whip agreed the timetable motion, we agreed the timetable motion which was a five day debate, and it was put at that time at that week to ensure the select committees could have a chance over a week to comment on the agreement before it was put to parliament.
“I agreed with... I thought that was a sensible way of doing it. You would have the process in the EU, you had Theresa May agreeing it with the EU, you then had a short gap, about a week, in which everyone could analyze it and consider it and then come back to the House for a five day debate and then a vote.”