Jeremy Corbyn hit by shadow Cabinet rebellion as Boris Johnson's Brexit bill clears first Commons hurdle

Posted On: 
20th December 2019

Jeremy Corbyn has been hit by a rebellion of his shadow Cabinet as MPs threw their weight behind Boris Johnson's EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill.

Jeremy Corbyn had ordered MPs to vote against the Bill.

Several of his front bench, including shadow housing secretary John Healey, were among those who failed to vote against the flagship Brexit bill as it cleared its first Commons hurdle on Friday.

And six Labour MPs actively defied the party leadership to vote for the legislation; Sarah Champion, Rosie Cooper, Jon Cruddas, Emma Lewell-Buck, Grahame Morris and Toby Perkins.

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In total 32 either abstained or were paired off, meaning they did not have to actively vote, including Andrew Gwynne, John Healey, Ian Lavery, Jon Trickett and Peter Dowd from the shadow Cabinet.

Speaking after the vote, Mr Healey made clear that he had intentionally abstained - setting up a potential clash with the leadership.

In a statement he said: "In a Brexit referendum and a Brexit election the public have now been clear, and so should Labour: our fight must be about the type of Brexit and the huge difference between Labour and Conservative visions of our economy. 

"Any question about whether Brexit goes ahead has been closed. I heard this same sentiment talking with many people on the doorstep and in the street during the Election."

And he added: "For this reason, I took a different stance to the official Labour Party position and did not oppose the introduction of the Government’s Brexit bill today."

The move came despite Mr Corbyn telling the Commons that the Withdrawal Agreement - which passed by 358 votes to 254 and will now move onto its next Commons stage - represented "a terrible deal for our country".

He warned: "It will not protect or strengthen our rights or support our manufacturing industry and vital trading relationships, or protect our natural world in a time of a climate crisis.

"Neither will it address the deep inequality in our system or secure the interests of every nation and region in the United Kingdom.

"Instead under the Conservatives this deal will be used as a battering ram to drive us down the path of yet more deregulation and towards a toxic deal with Donald Trump that will sell out our NHS and push up the price of medicines to benefit the giant US drugs corporations."