In Brexit row, Tory MPs defect to Independent Group
The resignations 'designed to be a wake up call' for prime minister, Heidi Allen says
London, City of
By Muhammad Mussa
Complaining of a capitulation over Brexit, three Conservative MPs on Wednesday resigned to join the newly established Independent Group founded this week by former Labour MPs.
Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston, and Heidi Allen quit the Tory party, citing the Brexit chaos that has consumed it and the country as well as Prime Minister Theresa May kowtowing to the right of her party.
“We no longer feel we can remain in the party of a government whose policies and priorities are so firmly in the grip of the ERG and DUP,” the three MPs said, in a joint letter to May, referencing the Eurosceptic European Research Group and the Democratic Unionist Party, which prop up May’s government.
“Brexit has re-defined the Conservative party – undoing all the efforts to modernise it. There has been a dismal failure to stand up to the hardline ERG, which operates openly as a party within a party, with its own leader, whip and policy,” they added.
The former MPs, who are pro-EU and are leading the fight against Brexit and to hold a second referendum, labelled the government’s handling of Brexit “disastrous,” saying it has failed to unite the country and build a genuine consensus.
“Instead of seeking to heal the divisions or to tackle the underlying causes of Brexit, the priority was to draw up ‘red lines’,” the MPs said, adding that “the 48% [opposed to Brexit] were not only sidelined, they were alienated.”
“The country deserves better,” they added. “We believe there is a failure of politics in general, not just in the Conservative party but in both main parties as they move to the fringes, leaving millions of people with no representation. Our politics needs urgent and radical reform and we are determined to play our part.”
The former Tory MPs are now members of the centrist and pro-EU Independent Group, formed on Monday by seven MPs who resigned from the Labour party citing the leadership’s failure to propose a concrete Brexit solution as well as failing to support a second referendum.
In a joint press briefing, Allen said the three MPs had run out of ammunition to persuade May to change course on Brexit.
“This is designed to be a wake-up call,” she said.
“This is a taste of more to come,” she added, signaling the possibility of more Tory MPs jumping ship.
Speaking at the same press conference, Wollaston underlined that as the new Independent Group is bigger than the DUP or ERG, May should reach out to it.
“I’m not leaving the Conservative party. It has left me,” said Soubry.
She called on other MPs to join the Independent Group, saying there are millions of people who “support their values and who are tired of tribal politics.”
The recent Tory resignations will leave May’s government with an even smaller majority in parliament, making it more difficult for her to win support and command a majority for her Brexit deal.
With today’s defections, the number of seats held by the Independent Group grew to 11.
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