Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson has agreed to meet with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn “in the coming days” after his proposal to become caretaker prime minister to block a no-deal Brexit received a mixed response.
However, Ms Swinson reiterated her belief that someone else must lead an emergency government if Prime Minister Boris Johnson is removed from office through a no-confidence vote.
The SNP and Plaid Cymru have suggested they could support Mr Corbyn’s idea, while a number of Conservative MPs opposed to no-deal have indicated they would hold talks with him.
Tories Dominic Grieve, Sir Oliver Letwin and Dame Caroline Spelman have agreed to meet with Mr Corbyn to discuss his proposals, although Sky News understands Dame Caroline wouldn’t support a Corbyn-led government “in any circumstance”.
Another Tory MP, Guto Bebb, said Mr Corbyn’s offer should be taken seriously.
“A short-term Jeremy Corbyn government is less damaging than the generational damage that would be caused by a no-deal Brexit,” he told the BBC.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said fellow Conservatives should “think very, very hard about doing” this and added: “I think it’s absolutely extraordinary that any Conservative MP considered even for one minute installing Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street.”
Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng told Sky News he thought the government would win a no-confidence vote.
The idea of Mr Corbyn leading an emergency government was “ridiculous” he added.
On Thursday, the Labour leader wrote to the leaders of other political parties and senior backbenchers to set out his proposals to stop the UK leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement at the end of October.
He wants to oust Mr Johnson from 10 Downing Street through a no-confidence vote, before forming a caretaker government that would seek a further delay to Brexit and arrange a general election.
Mr Corbyn also confirmed Labour would enter a general election committed to a referendum on the terms of leaving the EU, including an option to Remain.
Ms Swinson, in her first speech since being elected Lib Dem leader last month, dismissed Mr Corbyn’s plans.
She said: “Instead of doing everything in his power to stop us from crashing out, he is demanding the keys to Number 10 as a precondition for a vote of no confidence.
“We are facing a national crisis, we may need an emergency government to resolve it.
“But if Jeremy Corbyn truly wants that to succeed, surely even he can see that he cannot lead it.”
Ms Swinson proposed Conservative former chancellor Ken Clarke, or ex-Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, as “respected” long-serving MPs who could instead lead an emergency government.
But in a later statement she appeared to backtrack somewhat, saying that she would be happy to meet for talks “to discuss how our parties can work together to stop no-deal and who else might be able to lead an emergency government”.
She described the Labour leader’s idea as “not viable”, but ended her letter by saying “my door remains, as ever, open”.
Speaking to the BBC on Friday, Ms Swinson said both Mr Clarke and Ms Harman were prepared to lead an emergency government.
She added: “It doesn’t need to be them. If Jeremy Corbyn has got another suggestion of an experienced MP who has that respect across the House, let’s talk about it.”
When asked how they would respond to Ms Swinson’s offer, the Labour Party referred back to Mr Corbyn’s earlier remarks in which he welcomed an “encouraging” response from MPs to his plan.
Mr Johnson has promised Britain will leave the EU on 31 October, with or without a deal.
But many MPs fear his attempts to renegotiate the deal negotiated by Theresa May are disingenuous – and that his true preference is for no deal.
Opponents say such a scenario would damage the British economy and disrupt day-to-day life.
The PM tweeted on Thursday evening that the 2016 referendum result “must be respected”.
“We will leave the EU on 31 October,” Mr Johnson said.