Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt’s plans to sort out Brexit, claiming they have “no grip on reality”.
The Labour leader took aim at the two contenders to succeed Theresa May as prime minister, warning they have no mandate to “force a disastrous hard-right Brexit” on the country.
He made the comments in the Commons as the outgoing prime minister updated MPs on the latest EU summit last week.
Mr Corbyn claimed the government has “wasted” the time since the 2016 EU referendum and that Mrs May had let herself be “held to ransom by the wilder extremes in her party” rather than trying to achieve a “sensible majority” in the Commons.
He continued: “Does the prime minister now regret that instead of warning of its disastrous implications she continued to legitimise the idea of no deal?
“The two Tory leadership candidates are still saying that if they can’t renegotiate the backstop, which the EU leaders said was not possible last week, then they would pursue a no-deal exit.
“Will the prime minister tell us whether she believes no deal should be on the table as a viable option, and – in her view – what would be worse, crashing out with no deal in October, or putting this issue back to the people for a final say?”
In response, Mrs May said a no-deal Brexit is the default option legally on 31 October and that preparations were continuing for this outcome.
The PM added: “I wanted to leave the European Union on 29 March with a deal.
“If (Mr Corbyn) and his colleagues had voted with the government on that we’d already be out.
“I’ve done everything to avoid a no-deal Brexit by voting for a deal three times this year.
© PA Mr Johnson is the favourite to win the race to be the next PM”He’s done everything to increase the chance of no-deal by voting against a deal every time.”
And responding to the “no grip on reality” criticism, Mrs May said it was the Labour leader who was divorced from reality as he believed the “economic model we should be following is Venezuela”.
Mr Johnson and Mr Hunt are currently battling it out to be the new Tory leader and Britain’s next PM.
A winner in the contest is due to be announced in the week beginning 22 July – just days before MPs are due to go on their six-week summer break.
Ahead of that, it is possible the new Tory leader could face a Commons vote to prove they command the confidence of a majority of MPs.
In expectation of this, Tory MPs have been told they will be on a three line whip that week, meaning they will be expected to attend and vote with the government.
Independent MP Sarah Wollaston has called on the current government to make sure the next PM faces MPs before September.
Dr Wollaston added: “Is it not the case the government could reset the dates for recess to make sure that this House has an opportunity to question her successor on his policies?”
Mrs May said there would be an opportunity later on Monday for MPs to decide on the dates for recess.
Labour MP Chris Bryant said it would be a “disgrace” if the next PM did not appear before MPs in the Commons upon taking office.
Mrs May said that would be “a matter for the incoming prime minister and for this House”.
Both contenders to replace Mrs May have not ruled out a no-deal Brexit in the event that they – like her – struggle to get a deal through the Commons as the clock ticks down to exit day.
But such a course of action would provoke fierce opposition from MPs, a majority of whom have previously voted against a no-deal Brexit.
One minister has claimed that around a dozen Conservative MPs would support a motion of no confidence in a government that pursued such a course of action.
Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has claimed that “if it came to it” a majority of MPs would back revoking Article 50 – withdrawing Britain’s request to leave the EU.
“It’s not my first best option by a long way, I would like to see a People’s Vote, in other words going back to the people to see if they’re happy with the situation as we find it,” she told Sky News.
“But if we don’t have enough time for that at that point, then in terms of putting the emergency brake on and making sure that we don’t fall over that cliff, then I think there would be, at that point, a majority in Parliament to revoke.”