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Jeremy Corbyn is also facing a fresh challenge over his handling of anti-Semitism allegations within the party (Photo: Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

At least six MPs are said to be contemplating a breakaway move

Nigel Morris is Political Editor of i. He has been a lobby correspondent for 28 years, previously working for the Independent, Daily Mirror and Birmingham Post.

AIWA! NEWS INTERNATIONAL|Labour unity is under intense strain amid new claims that MPs disillusioned with Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on Brexit are preparing to quit the party whip and form a new parliamentary grouping.

According to one report, the first defection could come as early as 14 February, immediately after the next round of Commons votes on Brexit. Mr Corbyn will also face a fresh challenge on Monday over his handling of anti-Semitism allegations within the party at what is expected to be a fractious meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).

At least six MPs are said to be contemplating a breakaway, with the move led by backbenchers dismayed by their leader’s opposition to a second referendum on Brexit.

Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, said his party had been in talks with Labour MPs – as well as Tories – over how to thwart Brexit.

“When the Brexit issue is resolved one way or another, I think they will reconsider their position in the Labour Party,” he said.

“I can’t predict exactly what will happen but I think there’s a real chance of a significant group breaking away,” he told Sky News.

Long-standing rumours of a new centrist grouping have grown at Westminster as the parliamentary skirmishing over Brexit intensifies ahead of next month’s scheduled departure date. Several wealthy benefactors are said to be on stand-by to bankroll the group, particularly if it manages to attract Conservative as well as Labour MPs.

Cloud of scandal Jennie Formby, General Secretary of the Labour Party, wants to ensure the anti-Semitism row is dealt with

Monday’s PLP session, MPs will urge Mr Corbyn to prove that the leadership has got to grips with the anti-Semitism row which has dogged the party for more than two years. A motion will give him a week to set out how he is addressing the allegations.

Deputy leader Tom Watson suggested last year that Labour’s general secretary,  should step down if the anti-Semitism row had not been dealt with by Christmas. He said Ms Formby had “staked” her career on dealing with anti-Semitism in Labour, after taking over from Iain McNicol in April 2018.

Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston said: “I’ve made it clear for many weeks that I would not remain in a party that planned to inflict No Deal on its people. Rather than her current coercive approach, the PM could and should take this off the table.”


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