Veteran Blyth MP Ronnie Campbell has signalled he intends to vote in favour of Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal, defying his own party’s orders to reject the plan in Saturday’s vote in Parliament.
Campbell told ITV Tyne Tees:
Campbell has represented Blyth Valley in Northumberland as a Labour MP since 1987. He intends to stand down at the next general election.
The prime minister is feverishly lobbying pro-Brexit Labour MPs to back his deal and “get Brexit done.” His failure to secure the support of the Democrat Union Party (DUP) MPs from Northern Ireland has made the votes of the Labour "rebels" crucial.
Campbell said both Jeremy Corbyn and shadow chancellor John McDonnell asked him to abstain and that he would "think about it", before coming to a final decision on the day of the vote.
"At the minute I still want to get a deal across the line", he said. Asked if he still intended to back Boris Johnson, Campbell said:
"At the minute I'm saying yes. I have been asked by John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn to abstain."
Campbell is one of a small number of left-wing, Brexit supporting Labour MPs who are close to the Corbyn leadership but opposed to a second referendum.
He was one of only 36 Labour MPs to nominate Corbyn as a candidate for party leader in 2015.
John McDonnell, Labour’s shadow chancellor, has said he expects Labour MPs to hold to the party line.
“I’m going to have a chat with Ronnie", McDonnell told the BBC’s Today programme.
"No MP, as far as I’m concerned, who has the true interest of their constituents at heart can allow that to happen", he added.
The Labour Party is imposing a so-called "three line whip" on Saturday's vote, a strict instruction to vote against the government.
McDonnell would not say whether MPs who voted for the Brexit deal - as Campbell intends to - would "loose the whip", meaning they would be expelled from the party.
According to the latest report, the number of rebel Labour MPs talking to Downing Street about backing Mr Johnson’s deal is in the single figures.
Ronnie Campbell is the only Labour MP in that group from the North East.