The Labour leader told his MPs to abstain on a Lords amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that would have kept Britain in the European Economic Area (EEA) after Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. In total, 74 Labour MPs voted for EEA membership while 15 voted with the government against the so-called Norway model – bringing the rebellion to 89….reports Asian Lite News
The rift in the opposition Labour Party come to the fore as 90 Labour MPs defy the party whip to vote along with the government over a crucial Breixt debate.
Jeremy Corbyn fails to hold his rank as he has suffered his biggest Brexit rebellion in the Commons. Six junior frontbenchers also resigned from their roles.
The Labour leader told his MPs to abstain on a Lords amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that would have kept Britain in the European Economic Area (EEA) after Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. In total, 74 Labour MPs voted for EEA membership while 15 voted with the government against the so-called Norway model – bringing the rebellion to 89. On the Conservative benches three MPs defied Theresa May and voted for the EEA amendment, including the prominent pro-EU MPs Anna Soubry, Ken Clarke and Dominic Grieve.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Labour MP Laura Smith defended her decision to quit as shadow defence minister because she did not want to follow the leader’s instruction to abstain.
The MP for Crewe and Nantwich said she wanted to oppose the Lords amendment, saying remaining part of the EEA was not in the interests of her constituents who had voted to leave the EU in 2016.
Ms Smith, who backed Remain in the referendum, said there were “legitimate reasons” why people had backed Brexit, adding: “The country is divided on this issue and we need to start bringing people together.”
The Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable accused Labour of “wasting” an opportunity to defeat the government on EEA membership.
“ Corbyn is completely defunct as an opposition leader,” Mr Cable said. “Their alternative fudge amendment was nothing more than a meaningless distraction. Once again, Labour has abdicated its duty as the official opposition and is instead going right along with the Tories’ chaotic Brexit.”
Mr Corbyn meanwhile said that he understood the difficulties of MPs representing constituencies which voted strongly for either Leave or Remain at the EU referendum.
“The Labour Party respects the outcome of the EU referendum and does not support the EEA or Norway model as it is not the right option for Britain,” he said. “It would leave us with next to no say over rules we have to follow, it does not allow us to negotiate a new comprehensive UK-EU customs union and it fails to resolve the Irish border issue.”
“But we are not voting with the government on this amendment because the Conservatives offer no plan for securing the full tariff free access to the EU’s internal market, which is so vital for jobs and living standards in our country,” he added. “Labour will continue to use every opportunity to hold the government to account and protect jobs, rights and living standards.”
In another development, the Lib Dems slammed Labour MPs for supporting a government motion. All five of Manchester’s Labour MPs supported the Tory Government to win a bill that removes reference to EEA membership from the EU Withdrawal Bill.
Jeff Smith, who represents Manchester Withington – a constituency that voted nearly 80% to remain in the June 2017 referendum – ordered Labour MPs to support the three line whip to abstain issued by Jeremy Corbyn.
“Once again, all five of Manchester’s Labour MPs have supported the Tory Government on its mission to deliver the hardest and most disastrous Brexit – no matter the damage to Manchester,” said John Leech, Liberal Democrat Opposition Leader on Manchester Counci.
“Labour should be ashamed of their pathetic and spineless position – in particular, Jeff Smith who represents a Manchester constituency that voted nearly 80% to remain, and still took on the job to order Labour MPs to march through the lobbies with the Tories to secure this win.
“Theresa May doesn’t need the support of the DUP anymore because she can always rely on Manchester’s Jeff Smith to whip the Labour party in line with her.”