Key Jeremy Corbyn ally Clive Lewis quits the Shadow Cabinet over Labour leader's backing for Brexit

KEY JEREMY Corbyn ally Clive Lewis has stepped down from the shadow cabinet this evening in a dispute with the Labour leader over Brexit.

In a statement the Shadow Business Secretary confirmed he would no longer serve the hapless leftie saying he cannot "in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent".

Mr Corbyn issued a three-line whip, demanding his MPs back an Article 50 vote in Westminster this evening.

He said: “When I became the MP for Norwich South, I promised my constituents I would be ‘Norwich’s voice in Westminster, not Westminster’s voice in Norwich’.

"I therefore cannot, in all good conscience, vote for something I believe will ultimately harm the city I have the honour to represent, love and call home.

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"It is therefore with a heavy heart that I have decided to resign from the shadow cabinet.

"It has been a privilege to work with Jeremy Corbyn and be part of the shadow cabinet.

"I will continue to support our party and our leader from the back benches to the very best of my ability."

Mr Lewis said last week he would vote against the European Union Bill at third reading if Labour amendments to safeguard against a "hard Brexit" were not passed.

And with the Bill coming through committee stage unamended, the senior frontbencher quit to vote against the Bill, which will allow Theresa May to begin withdrawal talks under Article 50 of the EU treaties.

After Mr Lewis resigned, bookmakers Ladbrokes made him favourite to be the next permanent Labour leader.

Born in London, he grew up in a single parent family on a Northampton council estate.

The former Army reservist served in Afghanistan for three months in 2009.

He once claimed his career as a political correspondent never took off because of racism.

But his former boss at BBC East hit back claiming he was removed from his job because he “didn’t know enough about politics”.

An outspoken socialist, Mr Lewis enjoys much support with the hard-left thanks to his steadfast support of Jeremy Corbyn and his views on nuclear weapons and immigration.

In a joint statement, Mr Corbyn said: "I would like to thank Clive for his work in the shadow cabinet, which has underlined what an asset he is to the Labour Party and our movement.

"I understand the difficulties MPs representing constituencies which voted Remain have in relation to the European Union Withdrawal Bill. MPs have a duty to represent their constituents as well as their party.

"However, the Labour Party respects the outcome of the EU referendum, so we have asked all Labour MPs to vote for the Bill at its third reading tonight.

"We have been clear from the start that Labour will not frustrate the triggering of Article 50, which represents the start of the process for leaving the EU.

"Labour will use every opportunity to hold the government to account and protect jobs, rights and living standards at every stage of the negotiations.

"I wish Clive well and look forward to working with him in the future."

Responding to Mr Lewis's resignation, a Conservative spokesman said: "This resignation shows that on Brexit, as with everything else, the Labour Party is hopelessly divided and can't even agree amongst themselves, let alone speak for ordinary working people."

The Labour crisis comes as Theresa May moved a step closer to triggering our EU exit, with the Government winning a series of 10 votes on the Brexit bill.

Plots by the opposition parties to try and amend the legislation all failed after a mammoth debate in the House of Commons.

The final vote, officially known as the ‘third reading’, was passed with a majority of 372, meaning the Article 50 bill now heads to the House of Lords.

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