Jeremy Corbyn warned ‘dozens more MPs will quit party’ unless he backs second EU referendum

Posted On: 
22nd February 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned that a further raft of Labour MPs are ready to quit the party unless he backs calls for a second EU referendum, it has been reported.

Jeremy Corbyn has been warned failing to back a fresh vote could hasten a party split
PA Images

According to The Times, shadow ministers are among those considering their positions in the party over its Brexit policy.

Labour was rocked this week when eight of the party’s MPs dramatically left to join the new Independent Group, in protest over Mr Corbyn's handling of Brexit and the party's anti-semitism crisis.

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Luciana Berger, Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes and Anne Coffey confirmed their resignations on Monday morning, while Joan Ryan followed on Tuesday.

Three Conservative MPs, Heidi Allen, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, then joined on Wednesday in protest at their own party's direction on leaving the EU.

Although holding out the possibility of supporting a so-called "People's Vote" remains Labour policy, Mr Corbyn has so far been reluctant to give it his personal support.

But pressure is growing on him to order his MPs to back a bid by Labour backbenchers Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson to put Theresa May's Brexit deal to the public in another referendum.

One Labour MP told The Times: “If Jeremy ends up not supporting it, it will have a dramatic effect and people will go.”

Another Labour figure said the Kyle and Wilson plan was an “acid test” of whether the leadership was serious about backing a referendum.

“It has been made very clear that if Corbyn refuses to whip for this amendment then scores of colleagues [will] join the Independent Group,” they said.

Another source said the leadership was “desperate” to avoid endorsing a fresh vote and said the party’s policy of supporting a customs union with the EU and close alignment with the single market would have to be defeated first.

Meanwhile The Guardian reports that Mr Corbyn is being forced into changing tack as figures such as Keir Starmer and Tom Watson demand action to prevent a further split.

But the paper says the stance risks alienating senior figures such as Party chair Ian Lavery and close ally to the leader, Jon Trickett, who fear a backlash from Brexit-backing constituencies if Labour backs a referendum.

Speaking after holding talks with EU officials in Brussels on Thirsday, Mr Corbyn insisted a second referendum was “very much part of the agenda put forward by the Labour Party”.