Jeremy Corbyn hit by Brexit resignation as shadow minister Matthew Pennycook quits to campaign for Remain

Posted On: 
26th September 2019

Shadow Brexit minister Matthew Pennycook has quit as a Labour frontbencher just days after a major party row over its EU stance.

Mr Pennycook has been on the Labour frontbench since 2016.
Credit: 
House of Commons

In the first frontbench resignation since Labour's fractious conference in Brighton, Mr Pennycook said he wanted to campaign "unequivocally for the UK to stay in the EU".

The party's conference this week rejected a bid to shift its official position in a second referendum to Remain, instead backing a motion which calls on Labour to hold a special one-day Brexit conference after the next election to decide its stance.

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The move came despite senior Labour figures including Shadow Cabinet ministers Sir Keir Starmer, Emily Thornberry, Tom Watson and London mayor Sadiq Khan urging the party to adopt an explicitly anti-Brexit position.

In a letter to Jeremy Corbyn, Mr Pennycook said it had been a "privilege" to be part of the Labour leader's frontbench team since 2016, and that he was "honoured" to have been reselected by local members to stand as the Greenwich and Woolwich candidate.

But he added: "Having spoken to well over 1,000 members during that process, I am in no doubt whatsoever that the vast majority want desperately to secure another referendum and for me to once again lead the local campaign for the UK to stay in the EU.

"I am pleased that our conference this week formally confirmed our commitment to seek another referendum and to legislate immediately for one should be form a government. 

"I now want the opportunity to focus my efforts on campaigning vigorously for that public vote and unequivocally for the UK to stay in the EU when it is secured. 

"With our second child due in a matter of weeks, I think I can best do so as a backbencher rather than with the added responsibilities of being a frontbencher spokesperson."

He added: "I have nothing but respect for the dedicated and talented members of the team in which I have served for nearly three years."

PoliticsHome understands that Mr Pennycook had been unhappy with the position thrashed out at Labour's Brighton gathering.

The former shadow minister has represented Greenwich and Woolwich since May 2015 and served on the frontbench since October 2016.

Fellow Labour MP and opposition whip Alex Norris said: "I’ve known Matt Pennycook for a long time.

"Exceptionally smart, rock solid integrity and Labour to his core.

"Very sorry to lose him as a Ffrontbench colleague but I know he’ll make a significant impact for his constituents and Labour from the backbenches."