Six Labour frontbenchers resign over single market amendment

One shadow minister and five shadow ministerial aides resigned to defy the whip on an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.

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Five Labour frontbenchers have resigned after defying the party whip to vote for a pro-single market amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, with one quitting to vote against. 

Shadow cabinet office minister Laura Smith resigned to vote with the goverment, but five parliamentary private secretaries to shadow ministers – Ged Killen, Tonia Antonazzi, Ellie Reeves, Rosie Duffield and Anna McMorin – quit in order to back continued membership of the European Economic Area after Brexit.

All are from the 2017 intake and the rebellion is the biggest of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership. 

Labour MPs had been whipped to abstain on the House of Lords amendment, which was defeated by 327 votes to 126. A total of 89 MPs – more than a third of the entire parliamentary party – defied the whip. 74 MPs voted for the amendment, while 15 voted against it. 

Commenting on the resignations, Jeremy Corbyn left the door open for the rebels to return to the frontbench. "I would like to thank Laura, Ged, Ellie, Tonia and Anna for their work with the Labour frontbench. I look forward to working with all five in a Labour government that invests in our communities and gives real hope to our people," he said. 

"I understand the difficulties MPs representing constituencies which voted strongly for Leave and Remain have on the EEA amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill."

Two suspended Labour MPs also voted against the party whip. John Woodcock, the Barrow MP, voted for the EEA, while Kelvin Hopkins, the Luton North MP, voted with the government. 

Three Conservative MPs – Ken Clarke, Anna Soubry, and Dominic Grieve – also voted for the amendment. 

Patrick Maguire is the New Statesman's political correspondent.