Three MPs quit May’s party over Brexit
London: Three MPs resigned from British Prime Minister Theresa May’s ruling Conservative party on Wednesday over what they described as a “shift to the right” on issues such as Brexit.
Anti-Brexiteers Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and Heidi Allen wrote to May, informing her of their decision just hours before she heads to Brussels to seek concessions from the EU on a withdrawal agreement to get it passed through Parliament before the March 29 deadline.
May, who is now left with an even shakier majority in the House of Commons than before, said she was “saddened” by her colleagues’ move but insisted the government was on the right track as she made her appearance for the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions in Parliament.
The three MPs, who will now join the breakaway Independent Group created by seven Opposition Labour MPs who had resigned earlier this week, said Brexit has “re-defined the Conservative Party – undoing all the efforts to modernise it” and there had been a “shift to the right”.
“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 (European Research Group), which operates openly as a party within a party, with its own leader, whip and policy,” the MPs said in their letter, in reference to the hardline Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg led ERG group within the Tories.
“The country deserves better. 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 letter adds.
Soubry is a former government minister as part of former British Prime Minister David Cameron’s Cabinet, while Wollaston is Chair of the Commons Health and Social Care Committee. Allen was elected to Parliament in 2015 and has been an outspoken MP since.
“I am saddened by this decision – these are people who have given dedicated service to our party over many years, and I thank them for it,” May said in her statement in response to the spate of resignations.
She admitted that the UK’s membership of the EU has been a source of disagreement in the party, adding that by implementing the decision of the British people, she is doing the “right thing” for the country.
The new splinter group calling itself the Independent Group was created on Monday by seven former Labour MPs – Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey – with an eighth Labour MP Joan Ryan joining the ranks on Tuesday.
It would now seem like the group is gaining some momentum as the members move away from their party benches to sit independently in the Commons.
The common factor uniting different sides of the political divide in the form of the new splinter group is the contours of Britain’s exit from the EU, with some demanding a second referendum to let the British public have another say and others unhappy with the deal on the table.
May will seek to revisit the withdrawal agreement during her meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who has repeatedly ruled out the reopening of the draft agreement reached at the end of last year.
Unless both sides are able to strike an amicable deal on Britain’s exit that can pass through the UK Parliament in time for the March 29 deadline, the UK is set to crash out in a chaotic no-deal Brexit with no arrangements in place.