Seven members of the United Kingdom’s left-wing Labour party have announced that they are leaving the party, owing, they said, to widespread anti-Semitic sentiment within the party.
One of the departing MPs, Luciana Berger, told reporters that she could not “remain in the party that I have today come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic.”
The septet of MPs — which in addition to Berger include Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey — have stated their intention to form an independent party, and have called upon other members of the Labour Party to join them.
In recent years, the Labour Party has had to to undergo something of a gut check as the party had continued to be dogged by claims of anti-Semitism within its ranks. Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has himself been called to task on this repeatedly. It’s unclear what, if anything, has been done to root out these elements from the party.
It is, however, also worth nothing that the issue of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party came to light three years ago, which raises questions as to why these seven MPs have chosen this moment to announce their decision to leave the Labour Party.
It’s worth noting that on March 29 politicians throughout the United Kingdom will face a day of reckoning as the Brexit deadline finally arrives and the nation has to leave the European Union. While the departing MPs have acknowledged that Brexit was a party issue, they did not identify it as one of the concerns that have apparently forced their hands. As Leslie said on Monday, “our differences go far deeper than Brexit.”
Nevertheless, the timing of their collective protest is rather remarkable. All seven of the departing lawmakers campaigned to remain in the European Union during the run-up to the 2017 referendum in which voters opted for Brexit — an event that pollsters believed would never come to pass.
Tory Prime Minister Theresa May, charged with paving the road out of the European Union, has been continually waylaid in her efforts. Parliament balked at the deal she’d previously wrought with the EU, and her attempts to bridge the gap between what her fellow lawmakers will accept and what the EU is willing to provide have so far come to naught. May’s EU partners, in fact, have lost all patience with the process and are refusing to renegotiate any further. May narrowly survived a no-confidence vote in January.
All kinds of solutions have been bandied: An extension of the deadline, a “semi-Brexit’ with just England and Wales leaving the E.U., and even the possibility of a second referendum — which would essentially be lawmakers asking the voters to free them of the responsibility of actually delivering upon the obligations of the first Brexit vote. Corbyn, it should be noted, is against a second referendum, although there is some support for it within his party.
Lawmakers have failed to coalesce around any one idea, so come March 29 the so-called “hard Brexit” — the United Kingdom pushed out of the EU without any deal in place to continue relationships with the continental governing body — that is feared by many might just happen.
To be blunt, a no-deal Brexit will touch off significant turmoil, especially for Northern Ireland, which shares a border with the Republic of Ireland (the latter not being party of the U.K. and therefore remaining in the European Union).
So far, May’s office has declined to comment the departure of these Labour MPs. Corbyn, for his part, expressed regret over their decisions to leave, saying that “now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all.”