Change UK approved for European polls

The Independent Group is now a political party called Change UK Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The Independent Group is now a political party called Change UK

The Electoral Commission has approved The Independent Group’s application to register as a political party.

The group – made up of 11 former Labour and Tory MPs who quit their parties in February – will become Change UK.

The approval means they can put forward candidates in the European elections due to take place on 23 May – if the UK has not left the EU by then.

But the Commission rejected the party’s logo, saying it was “likely to mislead voters”.

Two Conservative MEPs, Julie Girling and Richard Ashworth, confirmed they were joining Change UK and hope to stand as candidates in the European elections.

Ms Girling said she was “fully committed to a People’s Vote on Brexit” and was “looking forward to being able to use my extensive experience as part of the Change UK team”.

Meanwhile, cross-party talks between the government and the Labour Party are continuing this week to find a way through the impasse.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said no agreement had been reached and the government “doesn’t appear” to be shifting its stance on key issues, including its opposition to a customs union with the EU.

Change UK began to form when seven Labour MPs resigned the whip due to an ongoing row about the leadership’s handling of anti-Semitism, and its position on Brexit.

Two days later, another Labour MP, Joan Ryan, joined the ranks, followed by three Conservative backbenchers, who criticised the government for letting the “hard-line anti-EU awkward squad” take over their party.

Since then, the group has been a vocal supporter of the “People’s Vote” campaign, calling for another referendum on Brexit.

The 11 MPs sat as a grouping in Parliament called “The Independent Group”, but applied to become a party at the end of March in case European elections went ahead.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionBBC Political Correspondent Alex Forsyth explains what we know so far about The Independent Group

It did not meet the deadline for local elections in England, which are taking place at the start of May.

Planning is already taking place for the European parliamentary ballot after the EU agreed to push back the Brexit deadline to 31 October.

European Council President Donald Tusk has said the delay means the UK will take part in the elections and British MEPs could sit for “months or even longer”.

 »