Labour frontbenchers quit as Jeremy Corbyn hit by huge Brexit rebellion

Posted On: 
1st February 2017

Two more Labour Shadow Cabinet members quit tonight as Jeremy Corbyn was hit by a huge Brexit rebellion.

Jeremy Corbyn speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons.
PA Images

Shadow Environment Secretary Rachael Maskell and Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler announced they were standing down less than an hour before defying the Labour leader to vote against the Government's Article 50 bill.

They joined fellow frontbenchers Jo Stevens and Tulip Siddiq, who both resigned after Mr Corbyn announced he was imposing a three-line whip on the vote.

Brexit takes step closer as MPs overwhelmingly back Article 50 bill

WATCH: Labour MP Neil Coyle says Tories are 'a government full of bastards

Live: Article 50 bill debate and votes

ANALYSIS: How Team Corbyn could respond if Clive Lewis quits the Shadow Cabinet

Fifteen members of Mr Corbyn's shadow team were among the 47 Labour MPs who also rebelled against the party's official position of supporting the legislation. Incredibly, the rebels included Labour whips Vicky Foxcroft, Thangam Debbonaire and Jeff Smith.

Others included Shadow Culture Ministers Kevin Brennan and Rosena Allin-Khan, Shadow Housing Minister Ruth Cadbury and Shadow Foreign Office Minister Catherine West. It is not known what disciplinary action, if any, will be taken against them.

Although 167 Labour MPs did back the bill, a further 13 were "absent" from the vote. They included Shadow Home Secretary and key Jeremy Corbyn ally Diane Abbott, who Labour sources said was "ill" and could not attend the Commons.

It means that more than one-quarter of Labour MPs failed to vote in favour of the bill, making it by far the biggest rebellion of Mr Corbyn's leadership.

MPs voted by 498 to 114 to pass the bill.

Commenting on Ms Maskell and Ms Butler's resignations, the Labour leader said: "I would like to thank Dawn and Rachael for their work in the Shadow Cabinet. They are great assets to the Labour party and to our movement.

"MPs have a duty to represent their constituents as well as their party, and I understand the difficulties that MPs for constituencies which voted Remain have in relation to the European Union withdrawal Bill.

"However, it is right that the Labour party respects the outcome of the referendum on leaving the European Union. We have said all along that Labour will not frustrate the triggering of Article 50. I wish both Dawn and Rachael well and look forward to working with them in the future."

Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer said: "We had a referendum, it was a real referendum and we have to accept the outcome but I’m very respectful of colleagues who have wrestled with their position and this was always going to be difficult for our party."

Asked if any frontbenchers would be sacked, he said: "It’s not my task or job, I’m afraid, to deal with those who voted against the whip."