Forty-nine Labour parliamentarians joined forces with MPs from other political parties to vote for an amendment to the Queen’s Speech which called for Britain to remain in the single market, or deliver the “exact same benefits”.
The amendment, tabled by Labour MP Chuka Ummuna, called for Brexit to “deliver the exact same benefits the UK has as a member of the single market and the customs union, ensures that there is no weakening of cooperation in security and policing, and maintains the existing rights of EU nationals living in the UK and UK nationals living in the EU.”
While the Labour party’s official position on single market membership remains unclear, leader Jeremy Corbyn decided to whip his MPs into abstaining on the amendment, instructing them not to vote to remain in the single market.
But, as the result shows, a large chunk of the parliamentary Labour party chose to disobey the leadership’s order and voted for the amendment anyway, including several shadow cabinet ministers, who were later fired by Mr Corbyn.
Supporters of the amendment included the shadow housing ministers Andy Slaughter and Ruth Cadbury, as well as shadow Foreign Office minister Catherine West. All three of those frontbenchers were sacked from the shadow cabinet shortly after the vote.
A fourth frontbencher, former shadow transport minister Daniel Zeichner, chose to resign shortly before voting, saying he’s “a passionate pro-European and straight-forward politician”, adding that he’s “taken the hard decision to resign as shadow minister to back the single market.”
With such a harsh repercussions for those who voted for the “exact same benefits the UK has as a member of the single market and customs union”, Jeremy Corbyn’s team have given the impression that the leadership’s position is to back the government in withdrawing from both.
Former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage, endorsed the move on Twitter, saying Corbyn showed his “true colours”, adding: “He’s almost a proper chap.”
Some confusion, however, over the official party position still remains, with commentators calling for a ‘clarification speech’ by the leader on all things Brexit.