WATCH: 7 MPs leave UK's Labour Party days before crucial Brexit vote

2019-02-18 15:12
Seven MPs from left, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Chuka Umunna. (Kirsty Wigglesworth, AP)

Seven MPs from left, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Chris Leslie, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker and Chuka Umunna. (Kirsty Wigglesworth, AP)

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Seven MPs from Britain's opposition Labour Party have resigned in protest at the party leadership, just days before crucial parliamentary votes on Brexit.

Speaking at a hastily arranged news conference in London, the seven MPs, Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey, accused party chief Jeremy Corbyn of leading the party to the far left, and criticised the party's handling of alleged anti-Semitism.

"If you want an alternative please help us build it," said Umunna who has led a cross-party campaign for a second referendum on Brexit and was once seen as a potential Labour leader.

"Politics is broken. It doesn't have to be this way."

In a statement posted online, the MPs announced the formation a new group called "The Independent Group" where they attacked Corbyn saying the Labour Party was pursuing policies which would "weaken our national security".

They also accused Labourt of failing "to provide a strong and coherent alternative to the Conservatives' approach", adding it "threatens to destabilise the British economy in pursuit of ideological objectives".

The UK is due to leave the EU on March 29, but British legislators have not agreed on a divorce deal outlining departure rules and future trade terms.

Businesses worry that leaving the bloc without a deal would cause gridlock at British ports by ripping up the trade rulebook and imposing tariffs, customs checks and other barriers between the UK and its biggest trading partner.

'Like the 1980s'

On Sunday, John McDonnell, Labour's shadow chancellor, warned that a party split could prevent the opposition from getting into power.

McDonnell told the BBC that it would be "like the 1980s" when the formation of the moderate Social Democratic party allowed Margaret Thatcher to stay on as prime minister.

"It basically installed Mrs Thatcher in power for that decade," he said.

Following Monday's announcement, Corbyn said he was "disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945".

"Now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all," he added.

Labour has said it will use a Commons amendment to require British Prime Minister Theresa May hold a "meaningful vote" on her Brexit deal by February 26.

The move is in response to fears that May is attempting to run down the clock before March 29 in order to leave MPs with a stark choice of either accepting her deal or crashing out of the European Union without any agreement.

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Read more on:    uk  |  brexit
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