Published: Fri, February 22, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Disgusted by Brexit hardliners, three MPs abandon the Tories

Disgusted by Brexit hardliners, three MPs abandon the Tories

The pro-Remain trio will join the new Independent Group - made up of eight Labour MPs who resigned from their party over its handling of Brexit and anti-Semitism - saying it represented "the centre ground of British politics".

The creation of a small but potentially powerful independent bloc of 11 - now composed of moderate rebels from both parties - suggests that seismic forces are at work in British politics.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Ms Soubry said of the Conservative party: "The battle is over, the other side has won".

"Brexit has re-defined the Conservative Party - undoing all the efforts to modernize it", a letter to Theresa May said.

While this new Independent Group on its own will not be able to stop Brexit, analysts say, it may play an outsize role in stopping a so-called "no-deal Brexit", under which Britain would crash out of the continental trading bloc without any transition period or trade deal.

The defectors left their parties for different reasons, but opposition to Brexit unites them.

After the defections, Mr Cameron tweeted a statement saying that he was 'sad that three talented Tory MPs have left the party. "Those who say "you're splitting the Labour vote" are making an awfully big assumption about who it belongs to", he told the New Statesman. The DUP - dominated by Protestant loyalists - rejects any compromise that would threaten Northern Ireland's position in the United Kingdom.

They were later on Wednesday joined by three former Conservative MPs, Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston, who all made a decision to resign from the Tory party. Since the referendum to remain in the European Union was lost, "Brexit now defines and shapes the Conservative party".

Former attorney general Dominic Grieve.

Greening said she would stay in the party "for the moment".

In announcing her resignation, Soubry said, "The right-wing, hardline, anti-EU squad are now running the Conservative Party, from top to tail".

And yesterday evening Joan Ryan resigned her post, becoming the eighth MP to do so.

May acknowledged that Britain's membership of the European Union "has been a source of disagreement both in our party and in our country for a long time" adding that leaving the bloc "was never going to be easy".

On a visit to Berlin, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: 'These are extremely talented people and I hope that one day we will be able to welcome them back into the Conservative family'.

One or both of those views are shared by many in parliament, including ministers who have so far remained loyal to May and voted in favour of her deal despite their reservations.

Disgruntled former minister, Dominic Grieve, is another Tory MP believed to be on the edge of resigning from the ruling party over fears of a no-deal crash-out of the European Union if an agreement is not reached in time for the March 29 Brexit Day deadline.

It is already the most significant breakaway group in nearly four decades for a parliament in which the two main parties have formed the government of the day for nearly a century, largely restricting smaller groups to the political fringes.

The now-independent lawmakers were already voting against the government, so their resignation has not changed the arithmetic in a parliament which won't approve May's Brexit deal, but can't agree on what alternative path it wants to pursue.

The Independent Group now has more MPs in Parliament than the Democratic Unionist Party and equals the number of Liberal Democrats.

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