Brexit bill reopens old wounds for UK Labour

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn ordered his members of parliament to support the first stage of a bill on Wednesday empowering the government to begin EU negotiations, but 47 MPs rebelled -- and a dozen others were absent.

Brexit bill reopens old wounds for UK Labour

World Bulletin / News Desk

The passage of a Brexit bill in parliament is reopening deep divisions among lawmakers in Britain's opposition Labour party, as they struggle to reconcile their pro-European views with voter concerns over immigration.

Further rebellions are likely when the legislation returns to the House of Commons next week, if -- as is likely -- Labour fails to push through amendments seeking to ease the terms of the divorce from the European Union.

The disagreements threaten to further undermine Corbyn's leadership, after the left-winger survived a failed bid to oust him by a majority of his more centrist MPs following the referendum vote in June.

But the divisions reflect wider problems in the Labour party, which has for years been balancing its liberal instincts with the concerns of many working-class voters about mass migration from the rest of the EU.

In the EU referendum, the vast majority of Labour MPs campaigned to remain in the 28-nation bloc, but two-thirds of their constituencies voted to leave.

"The party derives its support from two very different constituencies," said Simon Lee, senior politics lecturer at the University of Hull.

He added: "In the metropolitan, university constituencies, the clear majority of the electorate voted in the referendum to remain.

"But the majority of the seats that Labour needs either to hold or to win, are constituencies which voted to leave."

By refusing to block the Brexit process, Corbyn clearly has an eye on the latter -- and an early sign of whether he is succeeding will come in a by-election later this month.

The anti-immigration, anti-EU UK Independence Party (UKIP) has high hopes of winning the Brexit-supporting seat of Stoke-on-Trent, held until now by Labour.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 03 Şubat 2017, 17:53
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