Corbyn sacks 3 Labour frontbenchers over Brexit vote

Jeremy Corbyn
Labour leader Jeremy

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

  • Jeremy Corbyn sacks Andy Slaughter, Ruth Cadbury, and
    Catherine West for backing Britain remaining in the single
  • Labour’s big beasts, including Hilary Benn, side
    with Corbyn.
  • Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage praises Labour leader
    for showing his “true Brexit colours.”

LONDON — Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn sacked three shadow
frontbenchers on Thursday night after they defied his
instructions over a Brexit vote in the House of Commons.

MPs Andy Slaughter, Ruth Cadbury, and Catherine West were among
50 Labour MPs who broke ranks to vote in favour of an amendment
calling for Britain to stay in the single market after Brexit.

The amendment was tabled by Labour MP and staunch Europhile Chuka
Umunna during a Commons vote
on the Queen’s Speech on Thursday
. It was voted down along
with all other opposition amendments put to the floor.

The Labour Party promised in its general election manifesto to
take Britain out of the single market as part of its Brexit
strategy and Corbyn ordered his MPs to abstain from Thursday’s

Nearly a fifth of Labour MPs, however, defied the Labour leader
to support Umunna’s amendment. Labour MP Daniel Zeichner quit his
role as shadow transport minister before the vote to support it.

Cadbury MP told the BBC only staying within the single market
would allow Britain to protect jobs after Brexit. “I had no doubt
that I had to support the amendment moved by Labour colleagues
with cross-party support,” she said.

“The amendment ruled out withdrawing from the EU without a deal,
sought a parliamentary vote on the final negotiations, and
proposed remaining in the customs union and single market.

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“Only then can we protect jobs, trade and certainty for business,
as well as protecting the rights of EU citizens, with reciprocal
rights for UK citizens.”

Zeichner said he was stepping down from the shadow front bench
with “great regret” but added:”My position on Europe has always
been clear. I am a passionate pro-European and a straight-forward

Labour’s big beasts back Corbyn

Labour under Corbyn’s leadership has been no stranger to
rebellions and divide. However, in this most recent case, big
beasts of the party who once criticised Corbyn’s decisions appear
to be siding with empowered Labour leader.

His deputy Tom Watson, who Corbyn has had a tricky relationship
with since the pair were elected in 2015, came out to defend the
Labour leader’s strict stance, saying he was disappointed with
Umunna for trying to “divide” the party.

“I just felt that given we’d come out of the general election
with such an unexpected result, and there’s a real euphoria, to
try and divide Labour MPs a week and a half in was a little
disappointing,” Watson said. “But, you know, we’re still buzzing,
we still want to hold the government to account, we’ll get over
it and move on.”

Hilary Benn


Former cabinet minister Hilary Benn also defended Corbyn’s
position. Benn, who heads the parliamentary Brexit committee,
told the BBC: “I think we recognise that membership of the single
market creates a difficulty because… you can’t control free
movement if you are in the single market.”

He added: “The policy on which we fought the election was to say
that we wish to retain the benefits of the single market and the
customs union. I think if the reference to the single market had
not been in Chuka’s amendment then you would’ve seen a different

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Being forced into yet another frontbench reshuffle so soon after
the general election is not an ideal scenario for Corbyn. But
unlike many of the other bold steps he has taken during his
leadership, his decision to discipline high-ranking MPs for
defying his orders appears to have the support of the party
majority, including most senior figures.

Corbyn accused of betraying Labour voters

Shortly after yesterday’s vote, the Lib Dems accused Corbyn of
letting down Remainers who voted Labour in the June 8 election,
to help the party win 40% of the national vote.

“Millions of people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn were hoping for a
new approach to Brexit,” leader Tim Farron said. “They will be
feeling utterly betrayed tonight that he has yet again failed to
oppose this government’s extreme Brexit agenda.”

Nigel Farage applauded Corbyn for showing his “true Brexit
colours” in a tweet posted on Thursday evening.

The Labour Party leadership will argue it has always said that
Britain must leave the single market as part of Brexit in order
to respect last year’s result.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr show following the general election,
Corbyn said: “The single market is a requirement of EU membership
and since we won’t be EU members there will have to be an
arrangement made.”

His shadow Chancellor John McDonnell was even clearer. He told
ITV’s Robert Peston on the same day: “I can’t see it even being
on the table in the negotiations, I don’t think it’s feasible.”