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The Independent Group applies to become political party and field candidates for EU parliament election

Saturday, March 30th 2019 - 07:45 UTC
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The eleven MPs group intends to call itself Change UK, and has named Heidi Allen as its interim leader. TIG is planning to field candidates in the EU elections The eleven MPs group intends to call itself Change UK, and has named Heidi Allen as its interim leader. TIG is planning to field candidates in the EU elections

The Independent Group (TIG) of MPs has applied to become a political party to take part in European elections in May if they go ahead. The group intends to call itself Change UK, and has named Heidi Allen as its interim leader.

The government has warned that unless the EU withdrawal agreement is approved, the UK risks having to take part in May's European Parliament polls.

TIG said it would field a substantial number of candidates if this happened.

But the group's choice of name has caused controversy, with the petitions website change.org understood to be considering legal action.

The company, which says it has 15 million users in the UK, is understood to have contacted the elections watchdog amid concerns the Independent Group is trying to harness some of its profile and support by deliberately choosing a similar name.

The Independent Group, currently made up of eight former Labour and three ex-Tory MPs, has said it had applied to register as a political party in time for it to take part in those polls under the name “Change UK - The Independent Group”.

UK now has until 12 April to come up with an alternative way forward for Brexit.

In this scenario, it is thought EU leaders will insist on a longer delay to the UK's departure - which could involve the UK having to put up candidates for European elections between 23 and 26 May.

If the elections watchdog approves its application and the polls go ahead, it said it would field a substantial number of candidates from backgrounds outside of politics to try and “shake up the two-party system”.

Ms Allen, a former Conservative MP, told the BBC that the European elections would be a “weathervane moment for the country” and a “proxy for another referendum”.

“It is real opportunity,” she said. “The country is crying out for someone to lead and say we can just stay.”

She claimed there was enormous support for a new political movement but she did not underestimate the challenges involved. “This is David and Goliath stuff. We are literally just starting out and building a party together.”

She said there had no squabbling over her appointment as interim leader and it felt a “nice fit” for her to take the role alongside Chuka Umunna, who is acting as the group's principal spokesman.

The group will elect a permanent leader at its first party conference in September.

The 11 MPs in the group, who include Mike Gapes, Chuka Umunna, Anna Soubry and Sarah Wollaston, will continue in their current roles in Parliament.

Categories: Politics, International.

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