More Labour MPs are set to quit the party as Corbyn refuses to back a new Brexit referendum

Leon Neal/Getty ImagesJeremy Corbyn.
  • Labour Party figures believe more MPs are going to quit next week.
  • Seven MPs resigned from Labour on Monday over Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of Brexit and antisemitism.
  • The seven – which included Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and Luciana Berger – have formed a new House of Commons bloc called “The Independent Group.”
  • More Labour MPs could follow them out of the door if Corbyn does not support an amendment which pushes for a new referendum.
  • The amendment, tabled by Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson, declares support for Theresa May’s Brexit deal as long as she puts it to a referendum, with staying in the European Union as an option.
  • Corbyn is not expected to support it.
  • Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson warned that more resignations could be on the horizon.

LONDON – There is a feeling within Labour that more MPs will quit the party next week if leader Jeremy Corbyn fails to support an amendment which pushes for a new referendum on Brexit.

Seven MPs resigned from Labour on Monday morning in the party’s biggest split in nearly four decades.

The group – which included former leadership hopeful Chuka Umunna, ex-shadow Cabinet minister Chris Leslie, and Luciana Berger – cited Corbyn’s handling of Brexit and the antisemitism crisis which has engulfed the party.

The split came following months of speculation that critics of Corbyn were set to break away from Labour.

There has been growing tension and disagreement over a range of issues, primarily the party’s stance on Brexit and Corbyn’s reluctance to support a new referendum, as well as its response to hundreds of alleged acts of antisemitism carried by out party members.

Labour Deputy Leader Tom Watson warned that there could be further resignations if the party did not change.

“I love this party. But sometimes I no longer recognise it,”Watson said in a statement posted online.

“I confess I feared this day would come. I fear now is unless we change, we may see more days like this.”

Party figures believe that there could be a fresh wave of resignations next week if Corbyn does not support an amendment tabled by Labour MPs Peter Kyle and Phil Wilson. The amendment declares support for Theresa May’s Brexit deal as long as she puts it to a referendum, with remaining in the European Union as an option.

Corbyn is currently expected to tell his MPs to abstain on the amendment. However, his critics argue that the party should support it, as the option of backing a new referendum is part of Labour’s Brexit policy.

One senior Labour MP who highlighted this vote, which will take on Wednesday, February 27, told Business Insider: “People are in a holding pattern, waiting to see how it goes for the seven over the next couple of weeks or so.”

The Herald reports that another seven MPs, possibly including former leadership candidates Liz Kendall and Owen Smith, could resign next week if Corbyn does not whip Labour MPs to support the amendment.

Meanwhile, there is heavy speculation in Westminster that the Independent Group of ex-Labour MPs could soon be joined by Conservative MPs who are just as dismayed by the state of their own party.

Pro-EU Tories Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen are regarded as the most likely MPs to quit the party, sources have told BI, with fellow “rebels” Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve also linked to a possible Conservative split.

Wollaston tweeted on Monday: “Soon there will be nothing left at all to appeal to moderate centre-ground voters.”

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