Jeremy Corbyn has issued a second three-line whip, ordering his MPs to vote for the Government’s Brexit bill at its final stage in the Commons.
Various Labour sources confirmed the decision to The Independent after a meeting of the party’s shadow Cabinet on Tuesday. It now paves the way for Theresa May to trigger the formal exit process.
The decision to impose the three-line whip – the strictest possible instruction – means that certain members of Mr Corbyn’s shadow Cabinet will also be facing a difficult decision, especially those from areas with considerable proportions of Remain voters.
Clive Lewis, the shadow Business Secretary, has indicated he could resign from his position if the party’s amendments to the Bill fall flat in the Commons. “If at the end of that process the bill before us is overwhelmingly a Tory hard cliff-edge – a Trumpian Brexit – I am prepared to break the whip and I am prepared to walk from the shadow Cabinet,” he told his constituents on Friday.
His colleague Diane Abbott, the shadow Home Secretary, who is one of the Labour leader’s closest allies in Westminster, will also be under pressure to vote in line with the party whip after abstaining on the first vote last week due to a migraine. One Labour MP has called on her to apologise after she “bottled it”.
But at the weekend Mr Corbyn hinted that those not in the shadow Cabinet but on the front bench could still keep their jobs, adding he was “a very lenient person”.
Labour MPs said the party's chief whip Nick Brown had indicated there would be “consistency” in dealing with the passage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, which is now being debated in the three days of its committee stage in the Commons before a vote on Wednesday on whether to approve its third reading and send it to the Lords for consideration.
It is expected that more MPs could join those who rebelled last week, if the party fails to secure some of its key amendments to the Government’s EU withdrawal bill. One of the key demands includes securing the rights of EU citizens in the UK before Theresa May serves notice of Article 50 on her self-imposed March deadline.
The decision was described as “deeply disappointing” by Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party, who added Labour “is handing the Tories their extreme Brexit on a plate”.
In Holyrood later today it also expected that the Scottish Labour Party will vote against invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty putting it at odds with the orders of the UK Labour Party.
In a non-binding, symbolic vote MSPs will vote on the Scottish government motion arguing against the withdrawal bill currently making its way through the Commons. Kezia Dugdale, the Scottish Labour leader, said the people of Scotland did not vote for Theresa May’s hard Brexit.
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