Five Labour MPs quit in blow to Jeremy Corbyn over Brexit vote

Lester Mason
June 14, 2018

Six Labour MPs have resigned from their roles in or supporting Jeremy Corbyn's top team over a vote on House of Lords amendments to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

A majority of MPs defeated attempts to turn the prime minister's Brexit policy on its head on Wednesday.

In a highly charged atmosphere in parliament, lawmakers who oppose the government said they had received death threats and brandished a copy of one of Britain's tabloid newspapers, the Daily Express, which ran a headline saying: "Ignore the will of the people at your peril".

Mr Corbyn said: "I understand the difficulties MPs representing constituencies which voted strongly for Leave or Remain have on the EEA amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill".

Pro-Brexit politicians argue that staying in an EU customs union would limit Britain's freedom to trade with other countries.

May met with more than a dozen Tory would-be rebels shortly before the vote to reassure them, although exactly what she promised is in dispute.

"Anything that undermines the government at home will make negotiations with the European Union more hard", May told a meeting of her cabinet.

The Lords amendment overturned on Tuesday would have given parliament the power to decide whether to leave the European Union if no deal is reached, keep negotiating - or stay in the bloc.

But in unusual scenes, ministers were forced to offer a last-minute compromise to pro-European MPs, negotiated in part in huddles in the chamber as the debate raged. The government earlier had said it would not support that amendment.

His competing amendment could force ministers to hand over control of its Brexit strategy to parliament if there is no deal by mid-February.

Sarah Wollaston, a prominent Tory Remain rebel, has indicated that she will accept this pledge from the Government, and will therefore not be voting against her party.

The pro-European cause was boosted when junior justice minister Phillip Lee, a close personal friend of the prime minister, resigned shortly before the debate in order to back the veto amendment.

"We must under all circumstances respect the result of the referendum", Brexit Secretary David Davis told lawmakers as he opened the debate.

The formal separation is to happen in March 2019.

Prior to the vote, Labour's staunch pro-EU MPs - such as Chuka Umunna and Owen Smith - pleaded with the leadership to embrace the Norway option, as they believe it's the best chance retain full access to the single market.

But the Prime Minister is likely to face the risk of further rebellions further down the line.

May, who leads a minority government propped up by the small Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), conceded that "we need parliamentary support" to implement Brexit.

Before the vote, she assured lawmakers she would honor her promise and deal with the "concerns raised about the role of parliament in relation to the Brexit process".

But rebelling on the bill for the first time, Hilary Benn, the former shadow foreign secretary, who chairs the Commons cross-party Brexit committee, said there comes a point where "we have to stand up and be counted".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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