JEREMY Corbyn was humiliated this evening as a string of his frontbench team resigned and almost 90 MPs rebelled against him by voting in a crunch Brexit vote.
Five members of his top team quit ahead of a vote where MPs opted against staying in the European Economic Area – which would have kept Britain tied to the Single Market.
PA:Press Association Jeremy Corbyn suffered a humiliating rebellion in the House of Commons today as almost 90 of his MPs voted in spite of him telling them not to
Just as MPs were voting on the crunch amendment, Labour announced that Laura Smith, shadow minister for the cabinet office, and four others, had resigned.
Ged Killen MP, Ellie Reeves MP, Tonia Antoniazzi MP and Anna McMorrin MP all left their PPS roles so they could join dozens of backbenchers in voting too.
74 of Mr Corbyn’s MPs voted for the EEA amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill – even though he had ordered them not to vote at all. And 15 voted with the Government and opposed it – including Ms Smith.
Rebels who backed the EEA claimed it was the best way to stop Brexit damaging the British economy – even though it would stop us controlling our borders.
PA:Press Association MPs threw out plans to try and keep Britain tried to the European Economic Area after Brexit
BBC Parliament Labour is divided on its approach to Brexit – as scores of its own MPs defied Jeremy Corbyn and voted against his wishes
Labour’s own amendment, which said the Government should seek full access to the EU’s internal market, was voted down 322 to 240.
The EEA vote laid bare the massive Brexit divisions inside Labour – a day after the Tories’ own divisions were exposed in the Commons and they came close to defeat.
Mr Corbyn insists Britain must quit the single market so we can bring an end to free movement, and MPs in Northern constituencies are worried Labour voters will ditch the party if it doesn’t respect the referendum result.
But pro-EU backbenchers are intent on driving through the softest Brexit possible – even if that means accepting open borders in future.
Former Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna defied a three-line whip and voted for the amendment.
He said today: “‘Curbing Commonwealth immigration then and ending EU free movement now did and is not going to solve these problems and we know it.
“That is why I will be voting for my frontbench’s amendment but also the Lords’ amendment too.”
BBC Parliament Owen Smith said he was still trying to subvert Brexit
BBC Parliament Caroline Flint said MPs must respect the result of the referendum and vote against the EEA
Former Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Smith, who was sacked for opposing Labour’s Brexit stance, admitted he “remained an ardent Remainer” and he “would love this country to block, thwart, resist Brexit.”
And he told MPs today: “The EEA is a realistic treaty which would allow us a safe port in this Brexit storm – it would be a lifeboat for this country.”
But his Labour colleague Caroline Flint argued that “there has to be an end to freedom of movement” which we would not get with the EEA, and continuents in Leave-backing areas were insulted by some of the comments being made in the Commons.
She told MPs: “The central choice for Parliament is whenever we accept the outcome of the referendum or do we seek to subvert that process?”
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell today admitted Labour is “walking a tightrope” on Brexit, adding: “We campaigned for Remain but many of our MPs, including myself, now represent seats which voted heavily Leave.”
AFP Theresa May faced a revolt from her MPs yesterday, but she just managed to sway them onside in time