South East Wales

Brexit Labour rebel Kevin Brennan awaits frontbench fate

Kevin Brennan

Kevin Brennan could be sacked from Labour's frontbench for defying the party to vote against allowing Theresa May to trigger the Brexit process.

The shadow culture minister was among 47 MPs to ignore the party's three-line whip to back the European Union Bill.

Leader Jeremy Corbyn previously suggested shadow ministers could be sacked if they went against the whip.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said a decision on posts outside the shadow cabinet could be taken next week.

Senior Welsh Labour MP Wayne David called for party unity.

The Caerphilly MP, who voted to trigger Article 50, told BBC Wales: "Labour should move on and focus on the terms of Brexit rather than the abstract principle of whether we should remain or leave - the referendum decided that".

MPs overwhelmingly backed the bill in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

There were 498 votes in favour to 114 and the move will allow Prime Minister Theresa May to get Brexit negotiations under way.

The legislation now faces further scrutiny in the Commons and the House of Lords before it can become law.

The prime minister has set a deadline of 31 March for invoking Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, getting official talks with the EU started.

Cardiff West MP Mr Brennan was one of seven Welsh Labour MPs to oppose the move as most MPs from Wales backed it.

Bridgend MP Madeline Moon and Rhondda MP Chris Bryant, Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley), Owen Smith (Pontypridd) and Stephen Doughty (Cardiff South and Penarth) were the others voted against the move.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Kevin Brennan says the prime minister will make the UK an "annex of Trumpland"

Mr Brennan was the second Labour front-bencher in Wales to announce he would vote against Jeremy Corbyn's wishes, following Cardiff Central MP Jo Stevens who quit as shadow Welsh secretary on Friday.

In a blog post ahead of the vote Mr Brennan wrote his constituents had given him a "clear message" and it was his "duty to oppose" the Bill.

Cardiff was one of five areas in Wales to vote remain at the referendum in June.

Mr Brennan wrote that Prime Minister Theresa May's recent speech on the process of leaving the EU had "helped to clarify that the path she is leading the UK down is likely to make Britain little more than an annex of Trumpland".

"That is a future I cannot vote for. It is also a future which a clear majority of my constituents do not support," he wrote.

He added: "I believe it is now quite clear that triggering article 50 will lead Britain on a road to the kind of economy and society I have never believed in.

"That is also the view of the majority of my constituents. Taken together, those two things mean that I cannot vote to trigger Article 50."

The MP added that he respected those who had taken the opposing view after June's Brexit referendum, but added: "I have come to the conclusion that the Government is intent on a disastrous direction of travel that becomes almost inevitable with the vote on Article 50, and that it is my duty to oppose it."

Mr McDonnell, a close ally of Mr Corbyn, told BBC Radio Four's Today programme that a decision on Mr Brennan's future, and that of other MPs with posts outside the shadow cabinet, might not be taken until after the legislation had cleared the Commons, which is the middle of next week.

"The parliamentary convention will apply, which is that if you are in the cabinet or shadow cabinet, you will stand down," he said.

"For other positions that will be for the chief whip to report and that will be in due course.

"I am not going to pre-empt what the whip is going to recommend."

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