Three shadow ministers and a Labour whip have been forced to quit Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench after they rebelled to vote against a second Brexit referendum.
Justin Madders, Emma Lewell-Buck, Yvonne Fovargue and whip Steph Peacock were among 17 Labour MPs who defied the leadership on Thursday night.
The Commons rejected a bid to use a delay to Brexit to stage a re-run of the poll - but Labour chiefs ordered their MPs to abstain.
HuffPost UK understands all of the frontbenchers, who all represent strongly pro-Leave constituencies, were told to quit after they were warned they faced the sack for going against the party line.
After the news emerged, Corbyn released a statement, which said: “I understand the difficulties MPs have felt representing their constituents during this process.
“All of us across this House now have the opportunity to work together to find a solution to the crisis the government has plunged us into.”
Stoke MP Ruth Smeeth, who was Labour deputy leader Tom Watson’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS), has also resigned from her role after joining the rebels.
She told the Stoke Sentinel: “This was a really difficult decision to make, but I made a promise to my constituents that I would not consider a people’s vote, and I can’t just pretend this vote is not happening.”
It comes as MPs voted to delay Brexit by at least three months after Theresa May’s deal was crushed for a second time on Tuesday.
The party’s policy is to support a second poll, with remain and a “credible leave option” on the ballot, if the UK faces a damaging exit. Labour’s priority is to push for a softer Brexit, however, often putting the leadership at odds with the party’s pro-remain grassroots.
The amendment brought by the Independent Group MP Sarah Wollaston stood little chance of passing as the official People’s Vote campaign asked its MP supporters not to back it, saying it was best to wait until there was maximum support.
There were also 24 Labour MPs who rebelled to vote for a second poll, including David Lammy, Owen Smith, Jo Stevens and Stella Creasy.
Labour backbenchers Phil Wilson and Peter Kyle are drumming up support for a separate amendment, yet to be tabled, which asks MPs to back the government’s Brexit deal on the condition there is a “confirmatory” referendum.
HuffPost UK has contacted Labour for comment.