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Corbyn silent on consquences for Brexit vote rebels

Jeremy Corbyn has refused to say if Labour frontbenchers who defy party orders in this week's Commons vote on the Brexit Bill will lose their jobs.

The Labour leader has been struggling to contain a revolt by pro-Remain MPs opposed to his decision to support the Government's Bill authorising ministers to trigger Article 50 marking the start of the formal withdrawal process.

There was anger among some MPs that shadow home secretary Diane Abbott - one of Mr Corbyn's closest allies - escaped without punishment when she missed last week's second reading vote on the Bill, claiming a migraine, despite a three-line whip ordering MPs to support it.

Mr Corbyn is now facing the prospect of an even larger rebellion when the Bill receives its final third reading vote on Wednesday, with shadow business secretary Clive Lewis - seen by some as a future leader - reported to be among those who could vote against.

Asked whether frontbenchers who defied party orders could keep their jobs, Mr Corbyn told BBC Radio 4's The World This Weekend: "You are asking me a very hypothetical question here. I will be making an announcement during the week."

He added: "I am a very lenient person."

Mr Corbyn has already lost three members of his shadow cabinet - shadow environment secretary Rachael Maskell, shadow Welsh secretary Jo Stevens, and shadow equalities minister Dawn Butler - who all quit last week in order to vote against the Bill

And he has yet to decide what to do about ten junior shadow ministers and three party whips who also took part in the rebellion.

Meanwhile Theresa May is also facing a possible revolt by rebel Conservatives who are threatening to combine with Labour and the SNP to amend the Bill during the three-day committee stage starting Monday.

Pro-Remain Tories are particularly concerned that if the Brexit negotiations fail, Britain would simply leave the EU without any form of agreement and with Parliament unable to do anything about it.

Former ministers Anna Soubry and Dominic Grieve were among those reported to be considering a vote to modify the legislation alongside the veteran pro-European Ken Clarke who was the lone Tory to rebel at second reading.

Ms Soubry told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show: "The PM has been absolutely clear. If she gets a deal she will be back to the House of Commons - in fact both chambers - and there will be votes, and rightly so.

"But if there is no deal then the Government will determine what happens next. I think it should it come into Parliament. I don't know why people are so fearful of that."

The move has angered pro-Leave Tories who fear it is a backdoor way of derailling Brexit. Leading Conservative Leave campaigner Steve Baker claimed there were as many as 27 Tory MPs who could vote with the opposition.

"This is a time to unite behind a democratic result not plot to repudiate it. Any vote to amend this simple Bill is a vote against implementation of the referendum result," he said.

That figure was dismissed as being far too high by the pro-Remain camp, but with a Government majority of just 16 in the Commons, the voting arithmetic may be tight.

Shadow foregin secretary Emily Thornberry insisted that whatever happened to the amendments, Labour would not seek to block the Bill at third reading.

"There are many ways in which the Government may be able to react to this that will be positive," she told The Andrew Marr Show.

"There will need to be back channels, private conversations. There are many conversations going on now. We are speaking to Government, we are speaking to Tory backbenchers and we are trying to get a compromise that will work."


From Belfast Telegraph