Five Labour frontbenchers quit after defying Jeremy Corbyn over second EU referendum

Posted On: 
15th March 2019

Five of Labour's frontbench team have quit their posts after defying Jeremy Corbyn over a second EU referendum.

Jeremy Corbyn campaigning during the EU referendum.
Credit: 
PA Images

The Labour leader had ordered his MPs to abstain in a vote on an amedment calling for Brexit to be delayed so there can be a so-called "people's vote".

But the five rebels - Ruth Smeeth, Justin Madders, Yvonne Fovargue, Stephanie Peacock and Emma Lewell-Buck - broke the party whip to either vote for or against another poll.

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Ms Smeeth, who was parliamentary aide to deputy leader Tom Watson, was the first to announce her departure.

The Stoke-on-Trent North and Kidsgrove MP said: "I've resigned from Labour's front bench this evening in order to vote against a second referendum. This was a difficult decision but I have a duty to support the will of my constituents."

Mr Watson said: "Ruth is as good a colleague and friend as I could wish for. She is a leading young light in our party and has served on the front bench with distinction. I wish her well and respect her decision."

Amy Jackson, Mr Corbyn's political secretary, texted the other four rebels asking them to resign, which they did.

Barnsley East MP Ms Peacock, who voted against a second referendum, said she had done so "because I believe we should respect the result of the 2016 vote to leave the European Union".

Jeremy Corbyn said: "I would like to thank Yvonne, Emma, Ruth, Justin and Stephanie for their service while on the Labour frontbench.

"I understand the difficulties MPs have felt representing the views of their constituents during this process. 

"All of us across the House now have the opportunity to work together to find a solution to the crisis the Government has plunged us into. Labour's alternative plan can unite people, however they voted in 2016.
 
"I look forward to continuing to work with them to secure a Labour government, end austerity and give real hope to the whole country."