Two South London Labour MPs have resigned as junior frontbenchers after defying their leader Keir Starmer and refusing to vote for prime minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal.
Helen Hayes, the Dulwich and West Norwood MP, and Florence Eshalomi, the MP for Vauxhall, resigned from their junior frontbench posts so as to abstain as MPs voted on the legislation implementing the agreement.
They said they could not support a deal they believed would damage the economy, and feared it would be difficult to criticise the deal if the party backed it.
Southwark and Old Bermondsey MP Neil Coyle was among 36 Labour MPs to abstain in the vote.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy, the MP for Streatham, was the only Labour MP to vote against the deal.
Hayes, who was a Cabinet Office Opposition spokesperson, said fewer than one in 10 MPs had the opportunity to speak in the debate on the deal, so she had issued what would have been her speech in a statement.
“It is the only trade deal in our history which does not bring us closer to our trading partners but increases our isolation,” said Hayes.
“It does so at a time when across so many issues, from coronavirus to climate change, and from security to the digital economy, increased collaboration and cooperation across international borders is more important than ever.
“This is a bad deal which will make our country poorer.
“It will cost jobs, undermine our security, weaken our standing in the world, risk workers’ rights and environmental protections and limit opportunities for our children and grandchildren.”
Hayes said she could not “reconcile support for this bill today with the personal commitments I have made to my constituents when I asked them to vote for me.”
In a tweet Florence Eshalomi thanked constituents who had contacted her about the vote.
“This bill was rushed and a ‘no deal’ is the worst outcome for the country,” she said, “but I cannot support the bill and I have abstained.
“I have offered my resignation as an Opposition Whip.”
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