LONDON: Jeremy Corbyn was last night (Sunday) facing a leadership coup as the Left attempted to unite to overturn Britain's exit from the European Union.
Eleven members of the Labour shadow cabinet left office yesterday amid a series of staggered resignations and demands that Mr Corbyn make way for a pro-EU candidate who can fight against the British public's demand for Brexit. Tom Watson, the deputy Labour leader will today hold crisis talks with Mr Corbyn, who is being propped up the trade unions despite losing the backing of most Labour MPs.
The Labour turmoil came amid another day of unprecedented political and constitutional crisis, which saw Nicola Sturgeon warn that she would seek to use legal powers vested in the Scottish Parliament to block Brexit.
George Osborne will today make a dawn statement to reassure the financial markets that the Government is ready to intervene amid growing fears that the panicked response of British and European political leaders to the referendum threatens to spark a major economic crisis.
In an exclusive article for today's Daily Telegraph, Boris Johnson warns that the "negative consequences" of an EU exit are being "wildly overdone" by those who seek to overturn the result. He stresses that those campaigning for Leave wish to retain a free-trade relationship with the EU and remain part of the single market.
Mr Johnson uses his column in this newspaper to reject suggestions that the result is invalid, warning that people who voted for a Brexit were "speaking up for democracy, and the verdict of history will be that the British people got it right".
In an attempt to reach out to people who voted to stay in the EU, Mr Johnson writes: "They cannot be simply written off as the irrelevant victims of a binary choice. We who are part of this narrow majority must therefore do everything we can to reassure the Remainers.
"We must reach out, we must heal, we must build bridges - because it is clear that some have feelings of dismay, and of loss, and confusion." Mr Johnson is expected to launch his leadership bid in the coming days, with Theresa May, the Home Secretary, his most likely opponent in the battle to become the next Prime Minister.
However, the emerging Conservative leadership contest was yesterday overshadowed by the Labour machinations.
The Labour shadow cabinet departures began at 1.13am yesterday morning when it emerged Mr Corbyn had sacked his shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn after reports in the media he was leading a coup.
Alarmed by Mr Benn's sacking, some of the most senior figures in the party agreed to stagger resignations throughout the day in an attempt to unseat the Labour leader by exposing his lack of support.
Before 9am Heidi Alexander, the shadow health secretary, had released a resignation letter saying Mr Corbyn did not have "the capacity to shape the answers our country is demanding".
Mr Benn explained his decision shortly afterwards, telling BBC One's The Andrew Marr Show: "He's a good and decent man but he is not a leader."
By 7.30pm, nine more ministers had resigned, with more expected overnight and today.
One former member of Mr Corbyn's shadow cabinet who resigned yesterday said the party needed an "avowedly pro-EU" leader who could push to keep Britain as close to Europe as possible during exit negotiations.
Sources said that they expect a general election before the end of the year and that they want a leader in place who will stand on a pro-EU manifesto.
"People have started to say that we can go into the next election as a avowedly pro-EU party," the former frontbencher told The Daily Telegraph. "I would want someone who is very much-pro European, who has a vision for us being very much engaged in Europe, but addresses concerns that are clearly there such as immigration."
Sources said that Mr Corbyn will today refuse to step down and will instead try and make public a planned secret vote on his future so that voters can see which MPs are trying to unseat him. It is thought that the Parliamentary Labour Party is hoping to select a new leader who could seek to negotiate a new British-EU deal in conjunction with sympathetic European leaders and the heads of other British regions.
Tony Blair, the former Labour prime minister, said a second referendum on the UK's membership of the EU should not be ruled out because Britain has become "deeply divided" after the vote.
Across Europe, there are growing signs that a new deal may ultimately offered. Peter Altmaier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, said that British politicians "should have the possibility to reconsider the consequences of an exit" as these begin to emerge. He later clarified that the validity of the result was not in doubt and said "we respect the decision of the British people".
The Czech government called for the removal of Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU President, following another day of aggressive anti-British briefings from the European Commission. The EU met for the first time without Britain yesterday and sources said that no negotiations would take place until Britain had formally requested to leave the bloc.