Jeremy Corbyn suffers major rebellion as Labour MPs back bid to delay Brexit

Posted On: 
15th February 2019

Deep splits within the Labour party over Brexit erupted once again as MPs defied Jeremy Corbyn to back an extension to Article 50.

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

A total of 41 Labour MPs ignored their party whips to vote for an unsuccessful SNP attempt to delay Brexit past 29 March.

The rebellion is the latest sign of the tensions within the party over their leader's approach to Britain's exit from the European Union.

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It came amid mounting speculation that some Labour MPs are preparing to quit the party over their frustrations at Mr Corbyn's Brexit stance, as well as his attempts to tackle anti-Semitism among its membership.

The rebels included noted Corbyn critics Mike Gapes, Ian Murray, Luciana Berger and Chris Leslie.

Mr Leslie, who was Shadow Chancellor when Ed Miliband was Labour leader, made clear his frustation at Labour's refusal to back a second referendum during Thursday's Brexit debate in the Commons.

He said: "The idea that the Labour party is not together and arguing against this disaster is for me entirely heartbreaking. 

"I certainly feel that we are being played for fools by the leadership of the Labour party on this particular issue because by now we should have reached the option of a public vote with the option of remaining in the European Union and no one can explain to me seriously why we are not at that partuclar stage right now."

The rebellion came just hours after Labour frontbencher Clive Lewis warned that the party could suffer the same fate as the Lib Dems if it fails to stop a "Tory Brexit".

He said: "We actually understand what needs to happen to bring our country together. But my fear is this: we saw what the Tories did to the Liberal Democrats. Everyone knows what to expect from a Tory government. They're rotters. Most people understand that. We don't expect much different. But if you look at what they did to the Liberal Democrats... [who] let's be honest, tried to ameliorate, soften what the Tories were doing on austerity - they failed miserably.

"It didn't do them any good. They were utterly, comprehensively destroyed by the British public. They are not forgiven because they were facilitating austerity - they facilitated the Tories doing that. And my fear is that what we are now doing is we are helping to facilitate a Tory Brexit.

“And the ramification for our party, I think, will be severe."

'TROJAN HORSE'

Meanwhile, former Labour minister Caroline Flint has taken aim at her party colleague Yvette Cooper's attempts to rule out a no-deal Brexit.

A bill tabled by Ms Cooper and Tory MP Oliver Letwin would allow Parliament to take over the Brexit process if no deal is reached by the end of February.

But speaking to HuffPost UK, former Europe minister Ms Flint said it was a "Trojan horse" for those who want to stop the UK's departure from the EU.

She said: "At its most benign I think it’s a clever way to sit on the fence. It doesn’t have anything in it about what a deal should look like, it doesn’t have anything in it in terms of being against a second referendum, it’s all process.

“At its most worrying I think it is a Trojan horse. I think the mechanisms that she is putting into this allows those people who already aren’t interested in any deal and want a second referendum, to further frustrate and add in amendments and add in times."