NICOLA Sturgeon has accused Labour of abdicating responsibility after the party agreed not to push the divisive issue of Brexit to a full debate and vote at its annual conference.

The First Minister’s condemnation came as pro-European Labour MPs expressed outrage and disbelief at the decision, seen by some as an attempt to spare Jeremy Corbyn’s blushes and avoid a major public spat.

The Corbyn-supporting Momentum group had urged its members not to support a conference motion on Brexit.

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Chris Leslie, the former Shadow Chancellor, tweeted: “No Brexit vote at #Lab17 conference?! How utterly ridiculous. Many members will be shocked at manoeuvring to avoid biggest issue of our time.”

Chukka Umunna, the former Shadow Business Secretary, insisted: “We should not be ducking this debate, we should be leading it.”

Ms Sturgeon took to social media to declare: “Abdication of responsibility…” while the Liberal Democrats’ Tom Brake claimed: "Corbyn's anti-EU wing of the Labour party have won the day.”

Labour’s campaigns chief, Andrew Gwynne, a close ally of the Labour leader, acknowledged Brexit had the potential to inflict grave damage on the party.

Asked whether wrangling between Remain and Leave supporters could tear Labour apart, he told a fringe meeting: "It could, if we're not careful."

Local parties and trade unions chose Grenfell Tower, rail services, growth and investment, public sector pay, workers' rights, the NHS, housing and social care as the eight topics for full debates and votes with Brexit motions failing to win the necessary backing.

Earlier, divisions at the top of the party on Brexit were underscored when 30 senior figures wrote an open letter calling for the party to do whatever it would take to keep Britain in the single market and customs union.

Mr Corbyn made clear he had deep reservations about the restrictions which single market membership could place on a future Labour government's ability to intervene to support UK industry.

But John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, suggested Labour might support membership of a “changed” single market where free movement was reformed to prevent workers’ pay and conditions being undercut.

Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer, the Shadow Brexit Secretary, refused to be drawn on the specifics of the future permanent relationship with the EU Labour hoped to achieve save to say it must retain "the benefits" of the single market and customs union.

Today, Mr McDonnell during his keynote address will announce that a Labour government would cap credit card interest to help stem Britain’s “debt crisis” and assist the three million Britons in persistent debt with credit card bills totalling £14 billion.

The Shadow Chancellor will say the proposal would mean no-one would pay back more than twice the amount of their original borrowing.

He will call on ministers to apply the same cap on credit card debts as on pay-day loans, limiting interest and charges to 100 per cent of the amount borrowed.

Mr McDonnell will promise that if the Tory Government failed to act, Labour would change the law should it win power.