Britain’s chaotic political landscape became messier overnight when seven Labour MPs dramatically quit the main opposition party over leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and a row over anti-Semitism.
Saying Labour had been “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left”, the politicians will continue to sit in UK Parliament as the newly formed Independent Group.
Labour won 262 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons at the 2017 election.
The departure of the MPs underlines the mounting frustration with Mr Corbyn’s reluctance to change his Brexit strategy and start campaigning for a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.
With only 39 days until Britain leaves the EU in its biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years, divisions over Brexit have fragmented British politics, breaking down traditional party lines and creating new coalitions across the country’s left/right divide.
“The Labour party that we joined that we campaigned for and believed in is no longer today’s Labour Party,” MP Chris Leslie told a news conference.
“We did everything we could to save it, but it has now been hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left,” he said.
“Evidence of Labour’s betrayal on Europe is now visible for all to see. Offering to actually enable this government’s Brexit, constantly holding back from allowing the public a final say.”
The seven politicians were: Luciana Berger, Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey.
.@lucianaberger announces seven Labour MPs have resigned from the Labour Party to form a new independent group, saying "this has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision" #LabourSplit https://t.co/iAQE1PnRMR pic.twitter.com/PN9OOdfaFw
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) February 18, 2019
A Labour source close to the group, said Monday’s departures could trigger a second wave of resignations, underlining the frustration over Mr Corbyn’s approach to Britain’s exit from the EU.
Mr Corbyn said in a statement: “I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election.”
The Opposition Leader has so far stuck to Labour policy to keep the option of a second referendum “on the table” if Prime Minister Theresa May’s government fails to secure a deal with Brussels that can pass through parliament.
Mr Corbyn denied that he has allowed anti-Semitism to grow in the Labour Party and has pledged to stamp it out.