Jeremy Corbyn is a “friend” of Brexit, an anti-EU Labour MP has reassured eurosceptics.
Speaking ahead of Wednesday’s high-stakes vote in parliament over what role MPs have in the Brexit process, Graham Stringer said the Labour leader “has a lifetime of consistency of being opposed the EU”.
“I have no reason to believe that Jeremy privately has fundamentally changed his view,” Stringer said.
“In one sense we’ve got a friend in the leadership who is resisting the pressure that was put on him on his first day by Hilary Benn who went to see him and basically said ‘we are all leaving if you don’t agree to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote’.”
Stringer was speaking to a meeting of the eurosceptic Bruges Group in central London on Tuesday evening.
“When I voted against the Lisbon Treaty, Jeremy and John McDonnell were in the same lobby as Kate Hoey, Frank Field, and I,” he said.
The MP for Blackley and Broughton was one of a handful of Labour MPs who campaigned for ‘Leave’ at the referendum.
Labour is split down the middle on Brexit, and Corbyn is under pressure from his most pro-EU MPs to push for the UK to remain in the Single Market and for there to be a referendum on the final deal.
Last week week 89 MPs defied Corbyn’s order to abstain on a Commons vote that would have seen the UK join the European Economic Area (EEA).
And the Labour leader’s speech to the party’s music and politics festival on Saturday saw protesters unfurl a banner demanding he “stop backing Brexit”.
Theresa May faces another Commons showdown with pro-EU Tory rebels tomorrow who want parliament to have a “meaningful vote” on the final Brexit deal.
The vote comes after the rebels – led by former attorney general Dominic Grieve – accused ministers of reneging on measures which they believed had been agreed to stave off a rebellion last week.
Pro-Brexit MPs fear the move to give MPs more say over the direction of the Brexit deal is in fact ultimately designed to stop the UK leaving the EU - something denied by those behind the plan.
Corbyn ordered his MPs to vote against the government but Brexiteer Labour MPs Stringer, Hoey, Field, Ronnie Cambell and John Mann all sided with May.