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Three Conservative Party MPs – Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen, and Dr Sarah Wollaston – have resigned the party whip and their Tory membership in order to join the newly formed pro-EU breakaway organisation, The Independent Group.
In a joint letter sent to the Prime Minister, the three Tory MPs – who are all in favour of a second Brexit referendum – slammed their now former party and Theresa May, writing:
“Dear Prime Minister,
It is with regret that we are writing to resign the Conservative whip and our membership of the Party,
We voted for you as Leader and Prime Minister because we believed you were committed to a moderate, open-hearted Conservative Party in the One Nation tradition. A party of economic competence, representing the best of British business, delivering jobs, opportunity and prosperity for all, funding world class public service and tackling inequalities. We had hoped you would also continue to modernise our party so that it would reach out and broaden its appeal to younger voters and to embrace and reflect the diversity of the communities we seek to represent.
Sadly, the Conservative Party has increasing abandoned these principles and values with a shift to the right of British Politics. 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.”
'We can no longer act as bystanders. We are honour bound to put our constituents’ and country’s interests first.' Read the letter to the Prime Minister from @heidiallen75 @Anna_Soubry and @sarahwollaston #ChangePolitics pic.twitter.com/1HxHOULbft
— Change UK – The Independent Group (@TheIndGroup) February 20, 2019
The letter also severely criticises the government’s handling of Brexit and its effects on the Tory party, going on to claim that:
“Brexit has redefined the Conservative Party – undoing all the efforts to modernise it”, arguing:
“There has been a dismal failure to stand up to the hardline ERG which operates openly as a party within a party, publicly and privately funded, with its own leader, whips and policy”,
“We find it unconscionable that a party, once trusted on the economy, more than any other, is now recklessly marching the country to the cliff edge of no deal.”
Responding to the Tory split, Theresa May stated:
“I am saddened by this decision – these are people who have given dedicated service to our party over many years, and I thank them for it.
“Of course, the UK’s membership of the EU has been a source of disagreement both in our party and our country for a long time. 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 we are doing the right thing for our country. And in doing so, we can move forward together towards a brighter future.”
“I am determined that under my leadership the Conservative Party will always offer the decent, moderate and patriotic politics that the people of this country deserve.”
Also responding to the events, a Labour source stated:
“The Independent Group has now become a Tory-establishment coalition.”
“What unites the 11 MPs is their business as usual support for austerity, corporate tax cuts and big money corrupting politics.”
Following the decision on Monday by 8 Centrist Labour MPs – Chuka Umunna, Ann Coffey, Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, and Joan Ryan – to quit the party, this latest Tory split brings the number of MPs in the newly formed pro-EU Independent Group up to 11.