South London Labour MPs who rebelled against the Brexit Bill may lose their positions in parliament on the Opposition front bench.
Out of 47 Labour MPs who voted against the EU (Notification and Withdrawal) Bill, 20 are London-based with seven working as shadow ministers.
Members of the shadow cabinet team who defied Jeremy Corbyn’s three line whip – the firmest parliamentary instruction to MPs telling them which way to vote – may have to step down, it has been suggested
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said: ‘The parliamentary convention will apply which is that if you are in cabinet or shadow cabinet you will stand down. For other positions that will be for the chief whip to report and that will be in due course.”
MP for Lewisham Deptford and Labour party whip Vicky Foxcroft announced on Twitter that she would vote against triggering Article 50, despite being one of the key enforcers in implementing party discipline.
Just finished meeting with @heidi_mp talking with concerned groups about Brexit. I confirmed I will be voting against triggering article 50
— vickyfoxcroft (@vickyfoxcroft) January 28, 2017
Another MP who opposed the bill was Heidi Alexander, MP for Lewisham East.
In an impassioned speech to the House of Commons she said: “I feel like I’m watching a slow motion car crash and I have to do something about it.
“Over the next 12 months Europe is likely to experience the political turmoil that we along with America have experienced this year. Now is not the time to be making threats and burning bridges. Now is not the time for party politics. My country comes first and that is why I will vote against the bill at the first opportunity.”
Brexit is going to dominate parliament for months, if not years to come. It will suck the oxygen from Westminster AND Whitehall. https://t.co/BojgAGqN1U
— Heidi Alexander (@heidi_mp) February 2, 2017
Shadow environment secretary Rachael Maskell and Shadow minister for diverse communities Dawn Butler have already resigned.
In response to the resignations, Jeremy Corbyn said in a statement: “I understand the difficulties that MPs for constituencies which voted Remain have in relation to the European Union withdrawal Bill.” He went on say that it was however Labour’s “duty” to respect the referendum result to leave the EU.
it is unclear at this stage whether the Labour whips that went against the bill will be asked to step down.
Speaking of Labour’s fractured response to the Brexit Bill, John McDonnell claimed that though the party may look divided, he predicted it would unite when Article 50 is triggered and it will be the Conservatives that “split apart”.
The White Paper published on Thursday outlined the Prime Minister’s formal negotiating priorities for leaving the EU.
Formal negotiations can only begin once the UK has triggered Brexit under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. In a speech made last year Theresa May said that would happen by the end of March, marking the start of a two-year exiting process.