Labour rebels defiant over Brexit stance after key vote
Labour MPs have defended their decision to rebel against Jeremy Corbyn over Brexit, insisting: "We want what is best for our constituents."
The Labour leader suffered a mass House of Commons rebellion as 89 of his MPs went against his instructions to abstain on a key Brexit vote.
The motion that sparked the rebellion would have seen the UK seek full membership of the European Economic Area (EEA) after Brexit.
Among those to defy Mr Corbyn was John Spellar, who was one of 15 Labour MPs to vote with the Government against the EEA.
The Warley MP said his decision reflected the concerns of voters that should the UK remain in the EEA, immigration levels would not be controlled.
"Sandwell voted Leave in the EU referendum because people were concerned about uncontrolled migration," he said.
"The EEA would still leave us with open borders.
"The voters in the Black Country sent a very clear message and I should represent their views. The bureaucrats in Brussels must understand that the public will not accept uncontrolled migration.
"They want proper levels of migration and for our borders to be controlled."
Two Wolverhampton MPs – Emma Reynolds and Pat McFadden – were among a larger group of Labour MPs to defy the party whip and vote for the EEA.
Ms Reynolds, the MP for Wolverhampton North East, said she was committed to the UK leaving the EU, but said there were big questions over how 'the damage to people's livelihoods and the economy' could be minimised.
"The Government is making a huge mess of the negotiations," she said.
"My first priority is to protect the jobs and livelihoods of my constituents and therefore at this stage I don't think the single market should be taken off the table, which is why I voted for the amendment."
She also played down Labour divisions over the issue.
"We have all tried to grapple with this very difficult issue and obviously there are differences within the Labour party, but they are nothing compared to the divisions in the Conservative Party," Ms Reynolds said.
"The fact is that Theresa May is showing very little leadership. It is neither strong or stable. The Government's differences matter more, as they are supposed to be leading the negotiations. Their divisions are the biggest obstacle to securing the best possible Brexit deal."
Wolverhampton South East MP Mr McFadden said he believed it would be a mistake to take the EEA off the table.
“When we leave the EU we have to think about the how to secure the best market access for both manufacturing and service industries," he said.
"They employ millions of people and if we get this wrong and put barriers in the way of trade, people’s jobs and living standards could be badly affected.
“The EEA is the only existing example of a group of countries who are not EU members but who take a full part in the single market with no trade barriers for either goods or services. It has been in existence for over twenty years and whatever its strengths and weaknesses, we know it can work.
“All the promises and other forms of words kicking around about how we trade in future have yet to be agreed let alone tested in practice.
“So against that background I thought it would be a mistake to take this kind of arrangement off the table.
“The amendment was also pretty mild in its wording and only asked the Government to pursue a course which enabled us to do this type of deal."
The Lords amendment backing full EEA membership was rejected by 327 votes to 126 – a majority of 201 – sparking six resignations from Mr Corbyn's frontbench.
Three Remainer Tory MPs – Ken Clarke, Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry – rebelled to vote in favour of the Lords EEA amendment.