7 MPs quit Labour over the party's handling of Brexit and anti-semitism

Chuka UmunnaLeon Neal/Getty

LONDON - Seven Labour MPs announced their departure from the party on Monday morning after months of tension and disagreement over the leadership's handling of Brexit and other issues.

The seven - Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker, and Anne Coffey - told a press conference in central London that they were quitting Labour to become independent MPs, operating under the name The Independent Group.

Labour splits after months of tension

There was talk of a potential Labour split months prior to Monday's morning. The party's most staunch pro-EU MPs have been unhappy with Corbyn's approach to Brexit and his refusal to support a new referendum.

There is also frustration among MPs about the leadership's handling of the anti-Semitism crisis which has engulfed Labour over the last few years. A new report by the anti-racism group Hope Note Hate concluded that the Labour Party is not doing enough to tackle anti-Semitism in its ranks.

Jeremy CorbynGetty

Labour MP Stephen Kinnock on Sunday night said that a party split was inevitable.

"The talk has been going on so long that I say with great regret that yes, there probably will be some kind of splintering," he told the BBC's Westminster Hour.

"It just seems to have been in the rumour mill so long that it's unlikely that wouldn't be the outcome."

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell warned on Sunday that a Labour split would only benefit the Conservatives and lead to a decade of Tory rule.

"It would be like the 1980s. In my constituency in Hayes and Harlington we had a Labour MP join the SDP and we lost the seat to the Conservatives. And it basically installed Mrs Thatcher in power for that decade," he said.

"I don't think any of the people who have even been mentioned around this split would want that."

McDonnell also re-assured the anti-Brexit MPs who are considering quitting the party that Labour could still yet support a new referendum, or what campaigners call a "People's Vote," despite Corbyn's reservations.

"On all the issues people have raised as a reason for a split, we're dealing with [them]. For example on Brexit we're holding the party together. Those saying we'll split over a people's vote, well, we've still kept that option on the table and it might come about. Why split over that? It's ridiculous," McDonnell said.

Labour MP Gloria De Piero on Friday pleaded with her colleagues not to quit the party.

"Please don't go," she said an interview with the BBC, before adding that a split only "benefits the Tories."

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