Shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens has resigned from Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench in protest at his decision to order Labour MPs to vote in favour of triggering Article 50.
In a letter to the Labour leader sent on Friday, Stevens said as a “passionate European” she could not abide by the three-line whip on the vote that will begin the Brexit process.
“I campaigned strongly to remain. I voted to remain. My constituency and my city voted by a significant majority to remain,” she said.
“David Cameron recklessly and unsuccessfully gambled our country’s safety, future prosperity and longstanding European and wider international relationships solely to save the Tory Party and his premiership from imploding.
“It is with deep regret that this inevitably means I must resign from the Shadow Cabinet It has been an honour and a privilege to serve as your Shadow Secretary of State for Wales, the country where I was born, bred, work and live.”
She added: “Theresa May is now leading our country towards a brutal exit with all the damage that will cause to the people and communities we represent. There have been no guarantees before triggering Article 50 about protecting single market access, employment, environmental and consumer rights, security and judicial safeguards and the residency rights of many of my constituents And no guarantees for the people of Wales. Article 50 should not be triggered without these safeguards in place.”
Stevens follows Tulip Siddiq, who yesterday quit as a shadow minister in order that she be free to vote against Article 50.
Two Labour Party whips, Jeff Smith and Thangam Debbonaire, have also said they will vote against giving May the authority to take the UK out of the EU.
And as The Huffington Post can reveal, Shadow Home Office minister Rupa Huq has said she was let off the hook by party whips after telling them she was going to defy party orders on the Article 50 Bill.
Former Labour leadership candidate Owen Smith, who intends to join the rebels in the vote, said today he expects up to 50 Labour MPs to oppose Article 50.
Corbyn has said he understood the “pressures” facing his MPs, many of whom strongly supported the Remain cause, but urged the party to unite and make sure the legislation goes through the Commons.
The Labour leader said: “Labour is in the almost unique position of having MPs representing constituencies in both directions, and very strongly in both directions.
“I say to everyone, unite around the important issues of jobs, security, economy, rights, justice, those issues, and we will frame that relationship with Europe in the future outside the EU, but in concert with friends, whether those countries are outside or inside the EU.”
Earlier, there was better news for Corbyn as shadow business secretary Clive Lewis - who has previously said the Prime Minister’s plans for Brexit were not in the best interests of his constituents or the country – said he would toe the party line.
“I have been clear throughout that I respect the result of the referendum and will, therefore, join my colleagues in voting for the Bill on its second reading,” he said. However, Theresa May does not have a mandate to dictate the terms of Brexit without listening to the British people.”