Brexit: 'Half' of Labour top team set to resign

Media captionLIVE: BBC News coverage of Labour resignations
Up to half of the shadow cabinet is set to resign in a bid to oust Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, it is understood.
It comes after shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn was sacked overnight after telling Mr Corbyn he had "lost confidence" in his leadership.
Hours later, shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander said she would resign.
Mr Corbyn faces a vote of no confidence over claims he was "lacklustre" during the EU referendum - but sources close to Mr Corbyn said he would stand again.
The sources said they were confident that Mr Corbyn would automatically be on the ballot paper in the event of a leadership contest - but different Labour sources disagreed about whether that would be the case.
Meanwhile, a shadow cabinet member told the BBC: "I imagine that there'll be a leadership election and Jeremy will win. But this is a total distraction."
On the sacking of Hilary Benn, a Labour source told the BBC Mr Corbyn had "lost confidence" in the shadow foreign secretary.
Newspaper reports suggested Mr Benn had been encouraging shadow ministers to resign if Mr Corbyn ignored a motion of no confidence.
Mr Benn said there was concern about Mr Corbyn's "leadership and his ability to win an election".
He said he had phoned the Labour leader to tell him "I had lost confidence in his ability to lead the party and he dismissed me".
Media captionHilary Benn tells the BBC's Andrew Marr: Jeremy Corbyn "not a leader"
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Benn said: "At this absolutely critical time for our country following the EU referendum result, the Labour Party needs strong and effective leadership to hold the government to account.
"We don't currently have that and there is also no confidence we would be able to win a general election as long as Jeremy remains leader. And I felt it was important to say that."
Asked if he thought Mr Corbyn should resign, he said he did but added "that is a matter for him".
Mr Benn also ruled out standing for the Labour leadership.
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By Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent
We expect further shadow cabinet ministers to resign in the coming hours.
Why? In essence because they felt that Jeremy Corbyn was driving with the handbrake on during the EU referendum campaign, just wasn't putting enough into it and also, and crucially, many Labour MPs think now, given that there is going to be a new prime minister soon, there is the real prospect of a general election sooner rather than later.
And they fear, in the words of one Labour MP yesterday, that if Jeremy Corbyn is leading the party at that general election that Labour will be wiped out.
But despite all this turbulence at Westminster that doesn't guarantee, from the perspective of MPs, that they will succeed in getting rid of him.
That's because - and this gulf within the Labour movement is still as wide now as it's ever been - loads of party members and Labour supporters think Jeremy Corbyn is brilliant.
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The Labour Party campaigned for Remain during the referendum, which saw the UK voting to leave the EU by 52% to 48% on Thursday.
But Mr Corbyn - who has been a long-standing critic of the EU and who is regarded as the most Eurosceptic Labour leader in years - was criticised by some in his party for not making the case for the EU forcefully enough.
Hours after Mr Benn's sacking, shadow health secretary Ms Alexander, who joined Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet last year, tweeted: "It is with a heavy heart that I have this morning resigned from the shadow cabinet."
In a letter to the Labour leader, she wrote: "Our country needs an effective opposition which can hold the government to account."
Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander stands beside Jeremy Corbyn (centre) during a referendum campaign photocall earlier this monthImage copyrightAFP
Image captionShadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander stands beside Jeremy Corbyn (centre) during a referendum campaign photocall earlier this month
The letter continued: "As much as I respect you as a man of principle, I do not believe you have the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding and I believe that if we are to form the next government, a change of leadership is essential."
A source close to Lillian Greenwood, the shadow transport secretary, said she is expected to resign later today.
Sources told the BBC shadow chancellor John McDonnell was standing by Mr Corbyn, saying that anyone who resigned would be replaced.
Labour leadership election process graphic
Labour MPs Dame Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey submitted a motion of no confidence against Mr Corbyn in a letter to the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) chairman John Cryer on Friday.
The motion has no formal constitutional force but calls for a discussion at the next meeting of Labour MPs on Monday. The chairman will decide whether it is debated. If accepted, a secret ballot could be held on Tuesday.
But shadow international development secretary Diane Abbott - who describes herself as a "party loyalist" - played down the prospect of a no confidence vote.
She said Mr Corbyn had been elected last September with a massive mandate, and that a relatively small group of MPs had decided to pick a fight with the membership.
"This vote of no confidence does not exist in the Labour Party rule book. It doesn't. It has no meaning.
"If MPs want a new leader what they have to do is find a candidate and unite behind that candidate and have a formal leadership challenge," she told BBC Radio 4's Broadcasting House.
Other MPs have spoken out against Mr Corbyn's input in Labour's EU referendum campaign, with MP Stephen Kinnock saying it "was not Labour's finest hour". Meanwhile, former Labour cabinet member Ben Bradshaw said Labour faced being "wiped out" at the next general election under Mr Corbyn.


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