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3 U.K. Conservative MPs quit party over Brexit, join independent group

Cracks in Britain's political party system yawned wider Wednesday, as three pro-European lawmakers quit the governing Conservatives to join a newly formed centrist group of independent legislators opposed to the government's conduct of the country's divorce from the European Union.

8 similarly disillusioned Labour Party defectors formed new parliamentary group earlier this week

British Prime Minister Theresa May lost three legislators from her Conservative Party caucus on Wednesday, after the trio of pro-European MPs joined a newly formed independent group of lawmakers opposed to the government's conduct of Brexit. (Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters)

Cracks in Britain's political party system yawned wider Wednesday as three pro-European lawmakers quit the governing Conservatives to join a newly formed centrist group of independent legislators opposed to the government's conduct of the country's divorce from the European Union.

Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston announced Wednesday they will join eight ex-Labour Party lawmakers in the new group.

In a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May, the trio accused the Conservative Party of abandoning the political centre ground, and said "the final straw for us has been this government's disastrous handling of Brexit."

With Britain's departure from the EU due on March 29 and no deal yet agreed on divorce terms, the three lawmakers accused the government of "recklessly marching the country to the cliff edge of no deal."

May said she was "saddened by this decision," but the government was "doing the right thing for our country" by implementing voters' decision to leave the EU.

Joining Labour rebels

The eight Labour rebels quit their party earlier this week over its direction under left-wing party leader Jeremy Corbyn. They accuse him of mounting a weak opposition to May's plans for leaving the European Union and of failing to stamp out anti-Semitism in the party.

The defections mark the biggest shakeup in years for Britain's political parties. There have long been signs that voters' 2016 decision to leave the EU could spark a major overhaul of British politics, because Brexit has split both the Conservatives and Labour down the middle into feuding pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings.

The breakaway lawmakers hope to gain members from among disgruntled pro-Europeans in both the Labour and Conservative parties, with a view to forging a new force in the centre of British politics.

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