UK political sands shift over Brexit row

Published 21.02.2019 00:05

Three MPs quit the governing Conservative Party over Brexit Wednesday, joining a mounting rebellion in parliament this week against the two major parties that is shaking the system in British politics.

Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston said they planned to sit in parliament alongside eight former Labor MPs who, also citing their opposition to Brexit, have resigned from the main opposition party since Monday to form the new Independent Group.

"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 British Prime Minister Theresa 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 modernize 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.

The resignations posed a fresh and embarrassing headache for the prime minister as she prepared to travel to Brussels yesterday for crucial talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

It also reinforced the view that Britain was plunging further into political turmoil as its MPs struggle to agree a divorce deal just five weeks before it is due to leave the bloc on March 29. The political impasse risks the country crashing out without an agreement, with the rising uncertainty blamed for a string of car-makers and other businesses recently announcing job cuts and reduced investment in Britain.

Ahead of her trip to Brussels, May said she was saddened by the resignations but insisted that she is "doing the right thing" by continuing with her plan. "I am saddened by this decision," May said in a statement. "Of course, the U.K.'s membership of the EU has been a source of disagreement both in our party and our country for a long time," she said. "Ending that membership after four decades was never going to be easy. But by delivering on our manifesto commitment and implementing the decision of the British people [in the 2016 Brexit referendum], we are doing the right thing for our country," May said.

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