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Sunday, Sep 22, 2019

More MPs likely to quit parties in key Brexit week

The prospect of more MPs quitting Conservative and Labour parties hung heavy over Westminster as Prime Minister Theresa May braced for a key week in parliament with a little over a month to go for the UK to leave the European Union on March 29.

world Updated: Feb 24, 2019 17:52 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
An Anti-Brexit protester is seen outside the Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London, Britain, February 20, 2019.  Image for representation.
An Anti-Brexit protester is seen outside the Houses of Parliament, in Westminster, London, Britain, February 20, 2019. Image for representation.(REUTERS FILE PHOTO)
         

The prospect of more MPs quitting Conservative and Labour parties hung heavy over Westminster as Prime Minister Theresa May braced for a key week in parliament with a little over a month to go for the UK to leave the European Union on March 29.

Labour deputy leader Tom Watson admitted on Sunday the party had to change to ensure more MPs do not take the extreme step of resigning, while May’s cabinet was under strain to maintain collective responsibility with three ministers openly, and others covertly, toeing new lines.

Three cabinet ministers - business secretary Greg Clark, justice secretary David Gauke and works and pensions secretary Amber Rudd have already favoured extension to Article 50 to delay Brexit beyond March 29.

May has been cautioned by senior advisors that she cannot sack ministers who vote this week to delay Brexit without causing a further rupture within her party, given the growing number of ministers and MPs reportedly in favour of delaying it.

Also read | No to no-deal: May’s cabinet ministers want to delay Brexit

May used a party convention in Oxford to reiterate her position that has led to much hand-wringing inside and outside her party, as well as in Brussels: “Our focus to deliver Brexit must be absolute”.

“We must not, and I will not, frustrate what was the largest democratic exercise in this country’s history. In the very final stages of this process, the worst thing we could do is lose our focus,” she said.

As the newly-formed The Independent Group attracted funds from small and major donors worth “tens of thousands of pounds”, as former Labour MP Chuka Umunna put it, he called upon the British public to join the formation for a new kind of politics.

He wrote in the Sunday Mirror: “This week we have come together in the national interest, to say ‘enough is enough’. We have each put everything on the line to give something new a try. Believe me, it wasn’t an easy decision for any of us”.

“We don’t yet know the destination where the path we’ve taken will lead us. But what me and my Independent Group colleagues are absolutely clear about is that we cannot and must not recreate the old parties with their tribalism and incompetence”.

Also read | More Westminster tremors: Another Labour MP quits

First Published: Feb 24, 2019 17:52 IST