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SCORES of Labour MPs came under fire today for breaking the Labour whip to try to keep Britain in the European Economic Area (EEA).
Seventy-four voted for the Lords amendment to the EU (Withdrawal) Bill that seeks to make continued participation in the EEA a negotiating objective, defying the party’s decision to abstain. Another 15 broke the whip in the other direction to vote with the government, against the amendment.
The 15 include former ministers Caroline Flint, Kate Hoey, John Spellar, Graham Stringer, Kevan Jones, Jim Fitzpatrick and Frank Field.
Six frontbenchers quit their posts over the EEA vote on Wednesday night, one a junior minister and the other five parliamentary private secretaries (PPSs).
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “I understand the difficulties MPs representing constituencies which voted strongly for Leave or Remain have on the EEA amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill.
“The Labour Party respects the outcome of the EU referendum and does not support the EEA or Norway model as it is not the right option for Britain.”
Staying in the EEA would subject Britain to EU rules even after Brexit, when our government would no longer have any means of shaping them.
Trade Unions Against the EU chair Doug Nicholls said: “The role played by Corbyn and the Labour leadership in refusing to support membership of the EEA was crucial to foiling the attempts by the Lords and the hardline remainers in Parliament to subvert the vote to leave the EU.”
Last night, Communist Party chair Liz Payne accused the EU single market and its policies of austerity, privatisation and labour flexibility of promoting inequality across Europe.
At the Communist Party’s political committee, she said: “The tragedy is that so few Labour MPs voice a clear understanding of the imperialist, pro-big business and anti-working class character of the EU and the progressive alternatives to Britain’s membership.
“Instead, some Labour backbenchers are joining rebel Tories in an effort to block the democratic outcome of the EU referendum, while many other MPs including most of the Cabinet want a superficial Brexit that would still tie Britain to the neoliberal rules of the EU single market and customs union.”
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