More than 60 Labour MPs failed to back Jeremy Corbyn’s demand to vote for article 50 in the Commons last night.
The rebellion was larger than expected and included several serving shadow ministers as well as three members of the whips’ office.
In the end 47 Labour MPs voted against the Brexit bill, including 13 frontbenchers, at the end of a day in which Corbyn lost two shadow cabinet members.
Diane Abbott, the shadow home secretary and Corbyn ally who represents the pro-Remain Hackney North and Stoke Newington, missed the vote although aides said she was unwell.
Clive Lewis, the shadow business secretary, backed Corbyn’s line and voted for article 50 although there is mounting speculation his position could come into doubt if key Labour amendments on jobs and growth are not passed.
Corbyn is now expected to carry out a reshuffle, triggered by the resignations of Rachael Maskell and Dawn Butler from the shadow cabinet yesterday, although the shake-up is not expected to take place today.
A spokesperson for Corbyn said last night: “Labour MPs voted more than three to one in favour of triggering article 50. Now the battle of the week ahead is to shape Brexit negotiations to put jobs, living standards and accountability centre stage.
“Labour’s amendments are the real agenda. The challenge is for MPs of all parties to ensure the best deal for Britain, and that doesn’t mean giving Theresa May a free hand to turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven.”