Change UK split as more than half of MPs quit - leaving Anna Soubry in charge

PUBLISHED: 15:46 04 June 2019 | UPDATED: 08:32 05 June 2019

Anna Soubry, watched by Chuka Umunna and other Change UK party members, speaks during a Change UK rally. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA.

Anna Soubry, watched by Chuka Umunna and other Change UK party members, speaks during a Change UK rally. Photograph: Kirsty O'Connor/PA.

PA Wire/PA Images

More than half of Change UK's MPs are abandoning their party - and are expected to re-establish 'the Independent Group'

The party has been holding meetings to discuss the party's future after it failed to secure a seat at the European elections.

Six of the eleven MPs will leave the party to re-form 'the Independent Group', including Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston, and Gavin Shuker.

Five MPs will remain in Change UK - including Anna Soubry - who becomes the new leader.

There are not expected to be any moves to the Liberal Democrats at this time, but MPs will have until Friday to decide if they want to join to fight the party's leadership elections.

Others remaining in the party include former Labour MPs Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey.

Soubry, who quit the Tories in protest at its Brexit stance, said: "I'm deeply disappointed that at such a crucial time in British politics our former colleagues have made this decision.

"Now is not the time to walk away, but instead to roll up our sleeves and stand up for the sensible mainstream centre ground which is unrepresented in British politics today.

"Going forward, the Change UK MPs are as determined to fix Britain's broken politics as we were when we left our former parties.

"Challenging the established broken political parties was never going to be easy.

"We registered as a political party to stand in the European elections but it was never our sole purpose.

"It is vital we continue leading the fight against a damaging Brexit, pressing for a People's Vote and being prepared to revoke Article 50 in the face of a no-deal Brexit.

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"But Brexit is not the cause of our broken politics, it is a symptom of it. So we now look forward to providing a real choice for the public in future elections and building our policies through the evidence-led, deliberative policy making project we were planning before the European elections."

A joint statement from the six MPs leaving Change UK, tweeted by Allen and Wollaston, said that the party had boosted the European Parliament campaign and turnout.

The MPs, who also include Luciana Berger, Gavin Shuker, and Angela Smith said they would be "supporting each other as an independent grouping".

They added: "We believe that our priority right now must be to provide collegiate leadership to bring people together in the national interest.

"We know the landscape will continue to shift within the political environment and have concluded that by returning to sit as independents, we will be best placed to work cross-party and respond flexibly.

"We wish our colleagues well as they continue to build Change UK."

Liberal Democrat leader Sir Vince Cable said he would like the MPs to join his party but could also work with them in other ways.

He told the BBC: "Most of the group are people who share the same values as we do.

"My door is open to talk with them, particularly the independent group, about their future.

"I don't want to gloat over their failure. It was a failure. But we have got to move on and I want to be positive about it."

Change UK was launched in time for the European elections with the slogan that "our politics is broken, but it doesn't have to be this way."

But it polled a similar number of votes to bustered flush UKIP with around 3% of the total vote.

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