LONDON—Among the things that unite the British lawmakers who resigned from the Labour and Conservative parties this week, perhaps the greatest commonality is their shared support for Britain having a second Brexit referendum.
Paradoxically, their departures might have made that goal much harder to achieve.
The walkouts began on Monday with seven Labour MPs, who announced in a press conference their decision to resign en masse and sit as a new group of independents, citing their frustration with the party’s lack of leadership on Brexit and its failure to tackle anti-Semitism within its ranks. By Wednesday, the “gang of seven” became 11, as another Labour lawmaker and three Conservatives joined the so-called Independent Group. Not since the founding of the Social Democratic Party here in the 1980s has either party experienced so many defections.
And yet, when British lawmakers gathered in the House of Commons on Wednesday for their weekly questions to the prime minister, everyone avoided the elephant in the room: that Labour and the Tories have lost nearly a dozen lawmakers between them at a time when—with Brexit only weeks away—they arguably need them the most.
But what the fledgling group of lawmakers lacked in any formal acknowledgment from either the Conservative or Labour leadership, they made up for in size. Though not a formal party, in a matter of days they have become the fourth-largest grouping in Parliament, larger than the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (which props up Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative government) and equal to that of the Liberal Democrats.