The Labour Party is set to be rocked by a serious rebellion, following two frontbench resignations in protest against leader Jeremy Corbyn imposing a three-line whip to make MPs vote for an Article 50 bill.
The shadow secretary for Wales, Jo Stevens (above), resigned from her post on Friday afternoon, claiming she accepted the referendum result in her letter to Mr. Corbyn, but could not vote to trigger Article 50 as she still believed leaving the EU would be “a terrible mistake”.
Tulip Siddiq stepped down as shadow education minister Thursday night, arguing she could not vote to begin leaving the European Union (EU) after her affluent North London constituency vote to remain.
Owen Smith, MP for Pontypridd and Mr. Corbyn’s old leadership challenger, told the BBC’s Daily Politics on Friday he also planned to vote against Article 50 and that up to 50 Labour MPs could defy the whip with him.
Tellingly, the potential rebels include Thangam Debbonaire, the Bristol West MP and one of the whips supposed to be imposing discipline upon others. Daniel Zeichner, the shadow transport minister and MP for Cambridge, could also be among them, The Times reports
Mr. Smith argued he could not vote to “make the constituents that I represent poorer, and our country poorer and more isolated in the world, and ultimately… compound the meaner politics that we seem to have in our country and across the West.”
“My view is that this [Brexit] is bad for Britain and we the Labour Party need to stick up for our conviction as pro-Europeans…” he added, claiming that between 20 and 50 felt similarly.
“For my money, I think we should be seeking to get another referendum, a confirmatory referendum at the end of the process”, Mr. Smith also said, revealing: “That’s… one of the amendments that I’ve tabled yesterday.”
The announcement puts Mr. Smith in line with the Liberal Democrats, who also advocate a second referendum.
According to a recent poll, however, just 26 per cent of voters back a second referendum. More than half want to leave the EU “whatever” the result of negotiations, and 63 per cent support the Prime Minister’s assertion that leaving without a trade deal will be better than leaving with a bad deal.
It is not yet known if Mr. Corbyn will fire or discipline MPs who defy his strict instruction.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: “What happens to people that vote not to trigger will be managed by the whips but the leadership has a lot of sympathy for [MPs] in heavily Remain constituencies who find themselves in difficulty.”