Labour’s turmoil over Brexit deepened tonight as Rachael Maskell and Dawn Butler quit the shadow cabinet over Jeremy Corbyn’s three-line whip on article 50.
Maskell resigned as shadow environment secretary after a day spent consulting voters in her York Central constituency.
Butler, MP for Brent Central, stepped down as shadow minister for diverse communities, saying she could not “let down future generations” by supporting the Brexit bill.
Tonight Butler wrote on Twitter: “Been an honour to serve in shadow cabinet doing a job I love. Can’t let down future generations [and am] voting against poor excuse of a Bill”.
Maskell said Theresa May’s thin plan for Brexit was “creating an unjustifiable level of risk at a time of national and international uncertainty and volatility” when she published a statement.
It appears Maskell and Butler had given Corbyn notice of their decision because the leader publicly thanked them both within minutes of their announcements.
Corbyn said they were each “great assets to the Labour Party and to our movement”.
“MPs have a duty to represent their constituents as well as their party, and I understand the difficulties that MPs for constituencies which voted Remain have in relation to the European Union withdrawal Bill,” he added.
“However, it is right that the Labour Party respects the outcome of the referendum on leaving the European Union. We have said all along that Labour will not frustrate the triggering of article 50 and to that end we are asking all MPs to vote for the Bill at its second reading tonight.
“I wish both Dawn and Rachael well and look forward to working with them in the future.”
Corbyn’s relatively warm statement reflected the fact both MPs are seen as loyalists to the leadership.
Maskell has a majority of 6,716 and the York city area backed Remain by 58 per cent last year.
Butler’s majority is 19,649 and 60 per cent of the Brent council area voted for Remain.