Labour's Diane Abbott was too ill to vote for the Article 50 bill to trigger Brexit talks, a source close to the shadow home secretary claimed on Wednesday (2 February 2017). The source told IBTimes UK that Abbott went home from the House of Commons at around 5pm GMT, just two hours before the historic vote, after suffering from migraines.
The source also suggested that a picture of Abbott in the Red Lion in Westminster was taken on Monday, when the senior pro-EU Labour MP had "briefly" visited the pub.
Abbott's failure to vote on draft legislation meant that she officially abstained.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had imposed a three-line-whip on his MPs to back the Article 50 bill on its second reading in the Commons.
However, 47 Labour MPs, including Stella Creasy and Ben Bradshaw, defied the left-wing leader and voted against the draft law. Corbyn now faces a front-bench reshuffle after 10 shadow ministers, including Kevin Brennan and Rosena Allin-Khan, voted against the bill.
Dawn Butler, Rachael Maskell, Tulip Siddiq and Jo Stevens had quit Corbyn's top team ahead of the vote.
"Labour MPs voted more than three to one in favour of triggering Article 50," a spokesperson for the Labour leader said. "Now the battle of the week ahead is to shape Brexit negotiations to put jobs, living standards and accountability centre stage.
"Labour's amendments are the real agenda. The challenge is for MPs of all parties to ensure the best deal for Britain, and that doesn't mean giving Theresa May a free hand to turn Britain into a bargain basement tax haven."
Conservative MP and Change Britain supporter Charlie Elphicke told IBTimes UK that Labour are in "meltdown". "Labour are split top to bottom and are in meltdown as 47 MPs defied their leader and members of the shadow cabinet, and shadow ministers have resigned. It's clear Labour are in crisis," he said.
The Article 50 bill would now move on to its third reading and committee stage in the Commons after MPs voted 498 to 114 for it. The government hopes that the draft legislation passes into law by 7 March, with May planning to trigger divorce talks with the EU on 9 March.
The prime minister's much-awaited Brexit White Paper is to be published on Thursday (2 February), May has confirmed.