The pro-Brexit wing of the Labour Party has warned that as many as 30 of Jeremy Corbyn’s MPs could abstain from voting on Theresa May’s big Brexit deal next week.
Labour Leave has said 20 or 30 MPs may abstain in a bid to show their constituents they did not block Brexit, while warning the party “will be decimated in their heartlands” if it fails to back a Canada-style free trade agreement.
Labour’s current policy position is to vote down May’s controversial Brexit deal next week and then, should the PM be facing defeat in the Commons, table a confidence vote and demand a general election.
If Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn fails in that bid, the party will then keep “all options on the table”, including a second referendum.
Speaking at an event in central London on Wednesday evening, Brendan Chilton, general secretary of Labour Leave, called on Corbyn to ignore party members demanding a re-run of the referendum, and said they should instead back a Canada-style free trade agreement.
Chilton, who has branded MPs who back a second referendum an “extreme minority”, said any second vote should be a choice between no-deal and May’s deal with remain completely excluded.
“I would say 20 to 30 tops will abstain but the vast majority of MPs will vote against this deal,” said Chilton.
While some Labour MPs in northern seats, such as Caroline Flint, Gareth Snell and Lisa Nandy, have hinted they could support the government, Labour chiefs have said there will be no rebels.
Chilton also called for Corbyn to turn away from a second Brexit vote.
Labour Leave Donor John Mills insisted Corbyn was a Brexiteer “at heart” and said he should stop “cow-towing” to “very vocal ” remain-sympathetic MPs and “listen to the country” instead.
“The perfect scenario, we believe, is for the Labour Party to go back to its roots, oppose membership of the EU, oppose the deal that [May] comes back with and become the leave party of this country,” Mills said.
Mills added that half of Labour’s vote is made up of Brexiteers, adding: “It’s all very well us piling up votes in Islington, but we will not form a government for a generation if we alienate leave voters.”
Mills also believes the party could be usurped by a centrist party that backed Brexit.
“There is a gap there in politics and it isn’t the centre remain vote, it is the centre leave vote,” said Mills. “The working classes are now the swing voters and if the Labour Party wants to win the next election, it needs to appeal to those voters.”
Mills also hit out at Labour MPs who were calling for a so-called people’s vote, saying they were “playing a dangerous game” as the public did not want one.