The Liberal Democrats have been urged to reconsider their outright dismissal of Jeremy Corbyn’s plan to prevent a no-deal Brexit by becoming caretaker prime minister.
SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon told Jo Swinson that she should rethink her rejection of the proposition, which the Lib Dem leader described as “nonsense”.
Ms Sturgeon signalled her 35 MPs could support Mr Corbyn’s plan for a no-confidence vote, extension to the Brexit deadline and general election with him as temporary PM.
Plaid Cymru also suggested it could support the Labour proposal while some Tory rebels suggested they would meet with Mr Corbyn.
But senior Tory Remainer Dame Caroline Spelman and the Independent Group for Change refused to support any Corbyn government.
So did Ms Swinson, who called for a less divisive figure to form a unity government, such as veteran MPs Ken Clarke or Harriet Harman.
“There is no way he can unite rebel Conservatives and Independents to stop Boris Johnson,” said Ms Swinson, who gained her 14th MP on Wednesday.
“It is not even certain that he would secure all the votes of Labour MPs.”
But Ms Sturgeon said the Lib Dems “should rethink”, adding: “Jeremy Corbyn’s suggestion is not the only possible option – but given the circumstances, nothing should be ruled out at this stage.”
The SNP leader told the BBC: “It’s no secret, I’m not the greatest fan of Jeremy Corbyn, but we won’t rule out any option if it helps avert what is a looming catastrophe of a no-deal Brexit.”
Ms Swinson, in a letter, later offered to meet Mr Corbyn “in the coming days” to discuss how their parties could work to stop a no-deal Brexit, but reiterated her belief that it must be someone else who leads an emergency government.
Mr Corbyn proposed forming a government on a “strictly time-limited” basis to prevent a sudden departure under Boris Johnson, hoping he could win over his personal critics to support the anti-no-deal cause.
But the reaction was mixed, with the five-strong Independent Group for Change flatly rejecting it.
Leader Anna Soubry said Mr Corbyn “is not the person given he struggles to maintain the confidence of his own backbenchers”.
Dame Caroline also said she could not support the proposal, nor a vote of no confidence in her own Government.
“I could not support a Corbyn government, end of,” she told the Birmingham Mail.
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader Liz Saville Roberts offered her cautious support, saying the party is open to a unity government regardless of who leads it.
Mr Corbyn appeared to have convinced some of his opponents within his party on the basis of blocking no-deal.
Backbench MP Wes Streeting said the Lib Dems were “wrong to reject” Mr Corbyn’s offer, saying it should be “treated seriously” by everyone trying to stop no-deal.
Green MP Caroline Lucas also called on Ms Swinson to rethink in a “personal appeal”, saying: “Please join us in engaging with Corbyn to see if we can find a way forward.”
Remain-backing Tory MP Guto Bebb was lukewarm about whether it was the right move, but told BBC Radio 5 Live he “will consider anything that avoids the pitfall of a no-deal Brexit”.
“It’s certainly an option which has been put on the table and should be at least considered,” he said.
Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey appealed to critics by saying the move is “not about implementing Labour policy” but about avoiding the “unfathomable” damage a no-deal could cause.
Mr Corbyn announced the plan in a letter on Wednesday to opposition leaders and Tory MPs Dominic Grieve, Sir Oliver Letwin and Dame Caroline.
A letter being circulated and signed by the trio said they were willing to meet Mr Corbyn and other opposition parties to discuss no-deal prevention options.
It also featured Dame Caroline’s name, despite her clear opposition to a Corbyn government.
Former attorney general Mr Grieve said a national unity government led by Mr Corbyn is a “most unlikely way forward”, noting the Labour leader has views which are “entirely abhorrent” to him.
He said he was happy to speak to Mr Corbyn about ways in which they might “co-operate” to stop a no-deal Brexit, adding: “Even for a short period a prime minister in a caretaker capacity has got to be somebody who can inspire trust – and such people do exist within the House of Commons and would be in a position to do that.
“I have to say that seeing Jeremy Corbyn’s history, it’s difficult to see how he could possibly be in a position to do such a thing.”
The Labour leader said he would seek a no-confidence motion soon after the House returns from its summer recess on September 3. This would need the support of the majority of MPs.
He would then seek an extension to the Article 50 process to delay the UK leaving the European Union past the October 31 deadline.
Then, as PM, he could table a motion for an early general election which would succeed with the support of two-thirds of the seats in the Commons, in the same fashion as Theresa May’s vote in 2017.
Mr Corbyn said Labour would campaign in that election for a second referendum on EU membership with the option to Remain being available to voters.