Labour row over Brexit deepens as remainer MPs hint at quitting party in protest at Corbyn's stance

Owen Smith says he could resign next month, while Luciana Berger also refuses to rule out leaving party

Benjamin Kentish
Political Correspondent
Thursday 07 February 2019 12:54 GMT
Owen Smith says he is considering quitting the Labour party of Brexit position

Two Labour MPs have said they are considering quitting the party in protest at Jeremy Corbyn's leadership.

Owen Smith and Luciana Berger both suggested they would resign if the Labour leader helps Theresa May take Britain out of the EU.

Mr Smith, a supporter of the campaign for a fresh referendum, said it was "possible" he would leave if Labour allows Brexit to happen, while Ms Berger repeatedly refused to rule out resigning.

Another Labour MP, Chris Leslie, hinted at the weekend that he could also quit, telling The Observer: "A lot of people’s patience is being tested right now. I think there are some questions we are all going to have to face, especially if Labour enables Brexit.”

It comes amid a fresh row over Labour's Brexit policy after Mr Corbyn appeared to soften his stance and reached out to Ms May.

Mr Smith, who ran against Mr Corbyn for the party leadership in 2016, admitted he was "considering" whether he could continue to serve as an MP under the left-winger's leadership,

Asked by BBC Radio 5Live if he could "in all good conscience remain a member of the Labour Party", he replied: "I think that's a very good question and I think it's something that I and lots of other people are considering right now."

He suggested he would not be leaving imminently, saying he had not "come to that decision", and added: "Those of us who believe that Brexit is wrong in principle for our country and wrong in practice still have an opportunity to influence the Labour Party and to seek the Labour Party to pursue what I think would be the right course of action."

But asked if he would resign if Ms May's Brexit deal is passed next month, he replied: "That's possible."

Ms Berger, another supporter of the campaign for a Final Say referendum, also refused to rule out leaving the party.

The Liverpool Wavertree MP has been the victim of anti-Jewish abuse and frequently criticised Mr Corbyn's response to antisemitism.

Interviewed on ITV's Peston, she refused to deny being part of discussions about a breakaway party, admitting there was "a disaffection with the lack of leadership we’re seeing on all sides".

Pushed on whether she might leave the party over Brexit, she said: “I’m focused on Brexit - that’s my responsibility as a constituency MP.”

She added: “There’s many people that have many different challenges, not just Brexit, in terms of seeing leadership from all the main political parties.”

Three Labour MPs - John Woodcock, Ivan Lewis and Frank Field - have already quit the party in protest at Mr Corbyn's leadership.

Many more are furious at his refusal to support a fresh referendum on Brexit.

Brexit: What is the Irish border backstop?

The anger deepened this week after the Labour leader wrote to Ms May saying he would be willing to support a Brexit deal if she agrees to five conditions, including a customs union with the EU and guarantees on workers' rights.

More than 80 Labour MPs want the public to be given the final say on leaving the EU, with many criticising Mr Corbyn for suggesting he is willing to help Ms May deliver Brexit.

The Labour leader is set to write to party members, the vast majority of whom also want another referendum, to explain his position and insist that a fresh public vote remains on the table.

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