Will Labour breakaway change the Brexit reality?

19 February 2019


CLA Director of External Affairs Tom Bartošák-Harlow provides analysis of the latest Labour MP resignations and what this means in terms of Brexit.

Tom Bartosak-Harlow

On Monday journalists gathered to hear from seven Labour MPs* who have taken the momentous decision to resign from the Labour Party and form their own grouping of independent MPs. The Southbank Seven (not my phrase!) all had their own reasons for resigning, including concerns over antisemitism within Labour, but many had become disillusioned with the Labour leadership’s position on Brexit and their continued reluctance to back a second Brexit referendum outright. 

It is too early to tell whether this group of now former Labour MPs will fizzle out or if it will snowball with ever increasing momentum – there is talk of a couple of Conservative MPs considering joining as well as calls from within the Labour party that unless things change more MPs will leave. Only time will tell how it plays out, for example would potential Labour defectors be dissuaded if disgruntled Conservative MPs joined too? Some probably would be.

With Brexit being the only real political game in town at the moment what does this all mean for the UK departure from the EU? Unfortunately for those who like to wargame various scenarios (just me?) it won’t make too much difference. All the MPs who form this new grouping voted against the Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement and most back a second referendum – it will take a lot for these MPs to suddenly swing behind the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan.

For now, the negotiations continue with Brussels, although from the outside at least not much negotiating seems to be happening. The Prime Minister faces crunch votes next week on the way forward with rumours of 20 plus ministerial resignations if she refuses to take no deal off the table. I’ll be watching from afar from an Italian ski slope but the team here will be keeping you all up to date on what happens – watch this blog!

*The MPs who resigned from the Labour Party on Monday are:

Lucania Berger (Liverpool Wavertree)

Ann Coffey (Stockport)

Mike Gapes (Ilford South)

Chris Leslie (Nottingham East)

Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge)

Gavin Shuker (Luton South)

Chuka Umunna (Streatham)