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Three Tories quit party to join breakaway ex-Labour MPs in Independent Group

Anna Soubry said her party had “shifted to the right”.

Anna Soubry MP outside Westminster.
Anna Soubry MP outside Westminster.
Image: Yui Mok/PA Images

Updated Feb 20th 2019, 11:56 AM

THREE CONSERVATIVE MPS have quit Theresa May’s party to join the newly formed Independent Group.  

Heidi Allen, Sarah Wollaston and Anna Soubry have confirmed their departure from Theresa May’s party this morning, dealing a serious blow to the Prime Minister.

The Independent Group was formed by seven breakaway Labour politicians on Monday, who had said they would try to tempt Conservatives to the new parliamentary grouping

Confirming her decision this morning, Soubry said that her party had “shifted to the right”.

“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,” Soubry said in a letter to May.

Soubry wrote the MPs intedend to continue to support the government on some matters.

“We intend to sit as independents alongside The Independent Group of MPs in the centre ground of British politics. There will be times when we will support the government, for example, on measures to strengthen our economy, security and improve our public services,” she said.  

Responding to the departing MPs in a series of tweets, May expressed disappointment at their decision.

“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,” May said. 

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.”

Earlier today, Joan Ryan became the eighth former Labour MP to leave the party to join The Independent Group. 

In a Times/YouGov poll, weighted by likelihood to vote, 38% said they would vote for the Tory party, 26% said that they would vote for Labour, and The Independent Group has already gathered 14%.

As politicians took their seats in the House of Commons at noon today for Prime Minister’s Questions, the former Tory MPs sat beside DUP MP Ian Paisley Junior.

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Responding to questions, May responded to Jeremy Corbyn’s request to rule out a no-deal Brexit by saying there were two ways of doing that: to agree to a Brexit deal or to remain in the European Union.

She also added that Honda’s decision to move its Swindon factory to Japan wasn’t related to Brexit, but due to changes to the car manufacturing industry, which prompted jeers and shouts from MPs.

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Rónán Duffy

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