Britain’s Opposition Labour Party suffered a jolt on Monday as seven anti-Brexit MPs quit the party in protest against its leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to issues including Brexit and anti-Semitism.
MPs Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey held a press conference in London to tell reporters that they would sit as a separate independent group within Parliament.
“This morning we have all now resigned from the Labour Party. This has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision,” said Berger, who is Jewish herself and been very vocal about anti-semitism within the Labour party.
“I cannot remain in the party that I have today come to the sickening conclusion is anti-semitic. I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation,” she said.
In her statement on behalf of the group, she said the seven MPs represented different parts of the UK, different backgrounds and generations who share the same values.
“From today, we will all sit in Parliament as a new independent group of MPs,” she said.
The move marks the biggest split in Labour since a so-called “gang of four” senior figures left the party in 1981 to form the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
“Politics is broken. It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s change it,” said Umunna, once a frontrunner for the post of Labour leader.
He called on others to join the group, indicating their move to split from the party must inspire a new movement. “We invite you to leave your parties and help us forge a new consensus on a way forward for Britain,” he said.
Fellow MP Chris Leslie accused the party of “betraying” the country over Brexit because it had been “hijacked” by the far Left.
“I’m furious that the Labour leadership is complicit in facilitating Brexit, which will cause great economic, social and political damage to our country,” said Gapes, another MP from the group of seven resignations.
Many of the MPs within the Opposition support campaigning for a second referendum to allow the British public another say over Brexit, as the March 29 deadline for Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) nears without a deal acceptable to the UK Parliament in sight from the ongoing Conservative Party-led government’s negotiations.
Gapes said it was “increasingly clear that prominent figures in the Corbyn Labour leadership do not want to stop Brexit”, leading to the anti-Brexiters to quit.
Corbyn said he was “disappointed” the MPs had felt unable to continue working for the policies that “inspired millions” during the 2017 General Election.
“The Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan,” he said.
“Labour won people over on a programme for the many not the few – redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change,” he said.