Seven British lawmakers quit the Labour Party yesterday over leader Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Brexit and a row over anti-Semitism, saying Britain’s main opposition party had been “hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left”.
In a direct challenge to Corbyn, the seven centrist MPs said they were courting others from across parliament to join their group, saying “enough is enough” in keeping silent over their doubts about the Labour leader’s fitness for office.
“The Labour party we joined that we campaigned for and believed in is no longer today’s Labour Party … it has now been hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left,” lawmaker Chris Leslie told a news conference.
“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 lawmakers are Leslie, Luciana Berger, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey. They will continue to sit as members of parliament under the banner “The Independent Group”.
United by a desire for a second referendum on Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, they acknowledged that their resignations would not change the arithmetic in parliament, where there is as yet no majority for such a vote.
But their move underlines the increasing frustration within Labour over Corbyn’s reluctance to change his Brexit strategy, the leftist leader and long-time critic of the EU has stuck to his preference for a new election or his plan to leave the bloc.
With only 39 days until Britain leaves the EU, 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 ad hoc coalitions.
Corbyn expressed his disappointment that the group had left, referring in a statement to “Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election” when the opposition party saw its biggest increase in vote share since 1945 to win 262 seats.