Re­volt stuns Cor­byn

Six front­benchers walk out as 89 defy him in Brexit vote storm

Daily Mail - - News - By Po­lit­i­cal Ed­i­tor

JEREMY Cor­byn suf­fered a front­bench walk­out last night as dozens of Labour MPs re­belled by vot­ing to keep Bri­tain in the sin­gle mar­ket.

Six mem­bers of his front­bench team re­signed in protest at or­ders to ab­stain on the is­sue.

A to­tal of 74 Labour MPs voted to keep Bri­tain in the sin­gle mar­ket, while a fur­ther 15 ig­nored Mr Cor­byn to vote against. It was the big­gest re­bel­lion he has suf­fered.

The re­bel­lion came on a Lords amend­ment de­signed to keep the UK in the Euro­pean Eco­nomic Area (EEA), like Nor­way, which has good ac­cess to the sin­gle mar­ket but has to ac­cept the free move­ment of peo­ple.

The Gov­ern­ment com­fort­ably threw out the amend­ment by 327 votes to 126.

A Tory spokesman last night said the re­bel­lion showed the depth of the splits within Labour. ‘ There have now been over 100 res­ig­na­tions from Jeremy Cor­byn’s team,’ the spokesman said. ‘These res­ig­na­tions show that Jeremy Cor­byn can’t lead his own party let alone our coun­try through com­plex Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions.’

Min­utes be­fore the vote, Labour con­firmed that Shadow Cab­i­net Of­fice min­is­ter Laura Smith had re­signed to vote for the EEA amend­ment, along with par­lia­men­tary aides Ged Killen, El­lie Reeves, To­nia An­to­ni­azzi and Anna McMor­rin. A sixth par­lia­men­tary aide, Rosie Duffield, also later re­signed over the is­sue.

For­mer Tory min­is­ters Do­minic Grieve, Anna Soubry and Ken­neth Clarke also de­fied their own whips to vote for the amend­ment.

But the is­sue caused the deep­est splits in the Labour ranks. ProBrus­sels MPs had con­demned Mr Cor­byn’s stance, say­ing he was miss­ing an op­por­tu­nity to de­feat the Gov­ern­ment.

Mr Cor­byn, a long-time critic of the EU’s com­pe­ti­tion and state aid rules, is re­luc­tant to keep Bri­tain in the sin­gle mar­ket, fear­ing it could sti­fle his dream of im­pos­ing so­cial­ism on Bri­tain.

For­mer min­is­ter Caroline Flint voted with the Gov­ern­ment against the EEA amend­ment, say­ing that stay­ing in the sin­gle mar­ket would be­tray leave vot­ers in her Don­caster con­stituency who wanted an end to free move­ment.

Miss Flint rounded on her proRe­main col­leagues, say­ing her con­stituents had been in­sulted ‘day in and day out by some of the com­ments in this place and out­side’. She said her con­stituents were ‘not against all mi­gra­tion’, but said they ‘do want to have a sense that we can turn the tap on and off when we choose’.

She added: ‘Also they want us to an­swer the ques­tion why hasn’t Bri­tain got the work­force it needs, why has so­cial mo­bil­ity stopped, why do we train fewer doc­tors than Hol­land or Ire­land and why are these jobs dom­i­nated by those in the mid­dle and up­per classes so my con­stituents don’t get a look in?’

But a string of Labour MPs spoke in sup­port of stay­ing in the EEA. For­mer Europe spokesman Pat McFad­den said it would be ‘un­wise and rash’ for any gov­ern­ment to rule out stay­ing in the sin­gle mar­ket.

He added: ‘We need to ad­dress work­ing class dis­con­tent, but we do not take the first step in do­ing that by vot­ing on a path to make our coun­try poorer.’

Fel­low Labour MP Chuka Umunna ac­cepted that stay­ing in the EEA would mean keep­ing free move­ment – and ac­knowl­edged pub­lic con­cerns about im­mi­gra­tion. But he said end­ing free move­ment ‘is not go­ing to solve these prob­lems and we know it’.

Emma Reynolds said: ‘I ac­knowl­edge the EEA isn’t per­fect but for the minute the com­bi­na­tion of the EEA and the cus­toms union is the only way to avoid a hard border on the is­land of Ire­land.’

Re­signed: Labour front­bencher Ged Killen, with Jeremy Cor­byn

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