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Jeremy Corbyn

Britain’s opposition Labour Party in turmoil in Brexit fallout

The fall-out from Britain’s decision to quit the EU continued Sunday after the main opposition Labour party plunged into civil war.

The turmoil saw Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn fire one of his leading front bench members, shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn.

That was followed hours later by other members of Corbyn’s team resigning from his front bench.

Corbyn faces a vote of no confidence on Monday when Labour MPs at Westminster meet to decide what to do next.

The drama on the opposition benches comes after Prime Minister David Cameron announced Friday, that he was standing down following the decision by Britons to vote in a national referendum to withdraw from the EU after being members for 43 years.

Although there is pressure from Brussels for Britain to start the exit process as quickly as possible, Cameron wants a new leader at 10 Downing Street by the fall to steer the procedures that will lead to what has been described as a “divorce” from Europe, a process that could take several years.

By midday Sunday, a Parliament petition calling for a second referendum reached 3 million, with thousands of names being added as the minutes ticked away.

Although the petition has no legal standing, it will almost certainly prompt a full debate in the chamber of House of Commons.

The drama for Labour started in the early hours of Sunday morning when Corbyn sacked Hilary Benn, son of the iconic late left wing Labour politician Tony Benn.

Sources close to Corbyn said the Labour leader has lost confidence in Hilary Benn, a staunch supporter of Remain in last Thursday’s referendum.

Corbyn’s troubles started Saturday when veteran Labour MPs Dame Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey, submitted a motion of no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership.

If the call is accepted by the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP), on Monday, it will be followed by a secret ballot of Labour MPs on Tuesday, triggering a leadership contest, if there is enough support.

Former Labour shadow chancellor Chris Leslie said there were “failures” in Labour’s referendum campaign, while former Labour minister Ben Bradshaw said he would support the no confidence motion.

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock, son of former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, has accused Corbyn of a “lacklustre” referendum campaign.

Following Benn’s sacking, six other members of Labour’s shadow cabinet announced they were quitting.

They are shadow secretary of state for health Heidi Alexander and shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray, joined later through the door by shadow education secretary Lucy Powell, shadow transport secretary Lilian Greenwood and Kerry McCarthy resigns as shadow environment secretary, as well as shadow minister for young people Gloria de Piero.

There was speculation among political commentators in London that other members of Corbyn’s team would also resign later, with some sources saying that by the end of Sunday, half of Corbyn’s team would have resigned.

Resignation does not end their jobs as MPs, but takes them to the back benches away from front line politics.

Corbyn has said he has no plans to stand down and if the vote of no confidence results in an election for a new Labour leader, he would stand.

In last year’s leadership election, following Labour’s dismal performance in the 2015 general election, the then leader Ed Miliband resigned.

Corbyn joined the leadership race at the last minute as a rank outsider, but a groundswell of support, particularly among young Labour supporters, saw him score a decisive victory.