Jeremy Corbyn is facing the threat of shadow ministerial resignations en masse over his decision to back a second referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.
The Labour leader’s belated support for another vote on Brexit has sparked a fresh row within the party, prompting fears that several junior ministers could quit in protest over the move.
A shadow Cabinet source told i that the shift in policy meant there were now fears a “number of the junior shadow front bench could walk, which is a concern”.
It means Mr Corbyn’s team will be keeping a close eye on shadow ministers, such as Tracy Brabin, Gloria de Piero, Mike Kane, Melanie Onn, Judith Cummins, Yvonne Fovargue, Emma Lewell-Buck and Jim McMahon all of whom abstained on a Yvette Cooper’s bid to extend Article 5o last month.
Several members of Mr Corbyn’s top team clashed over the plans during yesterday’s weekly shadow Cabinet meeting amid concerns it could cause severe electoral damage in Labour heartlands.
The proposals, which were strongly defended by deputy leader Tom Watson, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry and shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer, would mean going back to the public with a choice between a “credible” option to Leave versus Remain.
Confirming the plans in the Commons, Mr Corbyn said: “The Prime Minister’s botched deal provides no certainty or guarantees for the future and was comprehensively rejected by this House.
“We cannot risk our country’s industry and people’s livelihoods and so if it somehow does pass in some form at a later stage, we believe there must be a confirmatory public vote to see if people feel it is what they voted for.”
It came after leave-supporting Labour MP John Mann warned the move would be “catastrophic to Labour in the Midlands and the north”.
“Our manifesto was unambiguous, we would accept the result of the referendum. A second referendum doesn’t do that and the voters – in very, very large numbers – will not accept that,” he told the BBC.
“Dress it up whichever why you like a second referendum gives one message you voted the wrong way do it again!”
The move is also opposed by several high-profile backbenchers, such as former minister Caroline Flint, Lucy Powell and Stephen Kinnock.
Ms Flint warned the party must not “ignore millions of Labour voters” by supporting a second referendum.
Another backbencher, Gareth Snell, MP for Stoke on Trent told Mr Corbyn in the Commons: “For the record, I will not and shall not and cannot vote for a second referendum no matter how much lipstick is put on it.”
Keir Starmer, shadow Brexit secretary, said a second vote would not offer people a no-deal option.