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Labour resignation and Brexit Bill defiance 'not a disaster' says Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn has insisted the fresh wave of defiance and latest frontbench resignation in his party over Brexit are "not a disaster".

The Labour leader also said rumours that he was preparing to quit the party's top job were "absolute nonsense".

During fractious exchanges on BBC Breakfast, Mr Corbyn accused the programme of reporting "fake news".

Clive Lewis quit as shadow business secretary to defy the three-line whip so he could oppose the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.

He joined 51 of his Labour colleagues to vote against the Government while 13 did not vote.

Conservatives seized on Labour's turmoil over the vote to back the start of Britain's divorce talks with the European Union to claim the Opposition was "hopelessly divided".

Asked about the rebellion by Labour MPs, Mr Corbyn told the programme: "No, it's not a disaster."

Mr Corbyn said suggestions swirling around Westminster on Wednesday that he had set a date for stepping down as party leader were from "I made it up yesterday dot com".

"Absolute nonsense," he said.

"I'm really surprised the BBC is reporting fake news. There is no news. There is no news."

Pressed about claims that he would have to reconsider his position in a year if his poll ratings had not improved, Mr Corbyn replied: "We are demanding social justice in Britain. That's what the Labour Party exists for, that's what I'm leading the party for and that's what I'm going to continue doing."

Mr Corbyn said he had ordered his MPs to walk through the voting lobby with the Government because the party had to carry out the result of the referendum.

The Labour leader insisted his party had not given Prime Minister Theresa May a blank cheque over Brexit.

But told by BBC presenter Charlie Stayt that Labour had agreed with everything, a clearly irritated Mr Corbyn replied: " No, we haven't agreed with everything. Do you not understand that this was a one-clause Bill?"

Eleven junior shadow ministers and three whips, who are meant to enforce party discipline, voted against it.

The frontbenchers were Rosena Allin-Khan, Kevin Brennan, Lyn Brown, Ruth Cadbury, Rupa Huq, Chi Onwurah, Stephen Pound, Andy Slaughter, Catherine West, Alan Whitehead and Daniel Zeichner.

The whips were Thangam Debbonaire, Vicky Foxcroft and Jeff Smith.

Last week three shadow cabinet ministers - Rachael Maskell, Jo Stevens and Dawn Butler - quit to vote against the Bill at second reading.

Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who last week blamed a migraine for a failure to attend a key vote on the Bill, backed the triggering of Article 50.

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