LONDON – Jeremy Corbyn has suffered another series of resignations from his Shadow Cabinet as dozens of Labour MPs prepared to defy his orders to vote for Brexit.
Shadow Environment Secretary Rachael Maskell and Shadow Equalities Minister Dawn Butler both stood down on Wednesday evening in advance of a landmark vote on triggering Article 50 – the two-year process by which Britain will leave the EU.
In a statement which left the door open for their possible return to his frontbench, Corbyn said that the two MPs remained “great assets” for the party.
“I would like to thank Dawn and Rachael for their work in the shadow cabinet,” he said.
“They are great assets to the Labour party and to our movement.
“MPs have a duty to represent their constituents as well as their party, and I understand the difficulties that MPs for constituencies which voted Remain have in relation to the European Union withdrawal Bill.
“However, it is right that the Labour Party respects the outcome of the referendum on leaving the European Union. We have said all along that Labour will not frustrate the triggering of Article 50 and to that end we are asking all MPs to vote for the Bill at its second reading tonight.”
Butler and Maskell are the latest MPs to resign from Labour’s frontbench following the departure of Tulip Siddiq and Jo Stevens. Several other frontbenchers, including two party whips, have also declared that they will vote against the Brexit bill.
However, it remains unclear whether all frontbenchers will be forced to stand down.
A spokesperson for Corbyn indicated on Wednesday afternoon that while shadow cabinet members who defy the whip would have to resign, frontbenchers who are not in the shadow cabinet may be able to stay.
“Jeremy said at the weekend that nobody who votes against the whip can stay in the shadow cabinet and apart from that anything else will be dealt with in due course,” they said.
When pushed on whether that meant frontbenchers may be able to stay in their posts, they replied: “What Jeremy’s said publicly relates to the Shadow Cabinet members.”
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