Three Labour frontbenchers have been sacked for defying Jeremy Corbyn and backing a call for the UK to stay in the single market after Brexit.
Ruth Cadbury, Catherine West and Andy Slaughter had supported Chuka Umunna’s amendment to the Queen’s Speech.
Labour backbencher Mr Umunna wanted to keep the UK’s single market membership – which is not Labour policy. Mr Corbyn had ordered his MPs to abstain.
But it was backed by 49 Labour MPs and another shadow minister resigned.
Daniel Zeichner quit as shadow transport minister and said in a statement he was resigning “with great regret” but added: “My position on Europe has always been clear. I am a passionate pro-European and a straight-forward politician.”
Mr Umunna’s amendment was defeated by 322 votes to 101, majority 221, during a series of final votes on the government’s Queen’s Speech.
Mr Corbyn has committed to leaving the single market after Brexit. A Labour amendment proposed by shadow chancellor John McDonnell was defeated by 323 to 297.
It called for Brexit to deliver the “exact same benefits” as the EU single market and customs union, as well as scrapping tuition fees, increasing public spending and ending the public sector pay cap.
Labour MP Hilary Benn told the BBC: “I think we recognise that membership of the single market creates a difficulty because… you can’t control free movement if you are in the single market.
“The policy on which we fought the election was to say that we wish to retain the benefits of the single market and the customs union.
“I think if the reference to the single market had not been in Chuka’s amendment then you would’ve seen a different outcome.”
He added that there was now “open dissent” in the cabinet between Brexit Secretary David Davis and Chancellor Philip Hammond over the kind of deal the UK wanted from the EU.
And Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson told Channel 4 News: “I am very disappointed with my colleague Chuka Umunna for moving this amendment. It forced people to take a position on the single market earlier than we needed to.
“To break away like that is politically unhelpful at a time when the entire Labour Party is buzzing because we did far better in the general election. I just hope we can come back together very quickly.”
The government survived its first major Parliamentary test when MPs voted 323 to 309 in favour of the Queen’s Speech – the government’s package of legislation – which was stripped back after the Tories lost their Commons majority.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s 10 MPs had agreed to support the measures as part of a deal with the Tories.