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MP Joan Ryan quits Labour for Independent Group

Ms Ryan was chair of the influential Labour Friends of Israel group

Joan Ryan has become the eighth Labour MP to quit the party in the past 48 hours, citing its tolerance of a “culture of anti-Jewish racism”.

The Enfield North MP said she was “horrified, appalled and angered” by Labour’s failure to tackle anti-Semitism, saying its leadership allowed “Jews to be abused with impunity”.

Ms Ryan said she did not believe Jeremy Corbyn was fit to lead the country.

Seven other MPs quit on Monday to form the Independent Group in Parliament.

There is mounting speculation that a number of Conservative MPs disillusioned with the government’s policy on Brexit could join forces with them.

BBC Newsnight’s political editor Nick Watt said Conservative whips were reporting three MPs – Sarah Wollaston, Heidi Allen and Anna Soubry – had gone “very, very silent”.

While the Independent Group are not confirming anything, he said he had been told by one member that Wednesday would be a “very busy day”.

Announcing her decision on Twitter,

Ms Ryan said she would continue to represent the north London seat in Parliament.

Ms Ryan, who served as a minister under Tony Blair, follows Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes, Luciana Berger, Ann Coffey, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker and Chris Leslie in quitting the party.

Jeremy Corbyn: “I regret that seven MPs decided they would no longer remain part of the Labour Party”

In her resignation statement, she said Mr Corbyn and the “Stalinist clique which surrounds him” was not providing real opposition at a moment of crisis for the country.

Instead, she said the leadership was focused on “purging their perceived ideological enemies within and obsessing over issues of little interest to British people”.

Ms Ryan, chair of the Friends of Israel group, repeated Ms Berger’s claim that the party had become “institutionally anti-Semitic”, suggesting that under Mr Corbyn’s leadership Israel had been “singled out for demonisation and de-legitimisation”.

“The Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn has become infected with the scourge of anti-Jewish racism. The problem simply did not exist in the party before his election as leader.”

“No previous Labour leader would have allowed this huge shame to befall the party. I have been horrified, appalled and angered to see the Labour leader’s dereliction of duty in the face of this evil.”

Ms Ryan lost a non-binding confidence vote of her party members in September which she blamed on “Trots, Stalinists, Communists and the assorted hard left”.

‘Something powerful’

Members of the Independent Group, who have cited what they say is a culture of bullying in the party and Labour’s stance on Brexit for quitting, welcomed Ms Ryan’s decision to join them.

Mr Shuker, the MP for Luton South, tweeted that the group was “building something powerful together”.

The seven have said their grouping could be the basis for a new political party and have urged like-minded MPs from other parties to join them.

The Independent Group

The embryonic Independent Group of MPs has no leader but has set out its principles

Mr Corbyn has said he wants to “take MPs with him” but insisted that the direction he has taken the party in since 2015 is hugely popular within the country.

Chris Williamson, the MP for Derby North, said he was “not entirely surprised” by Ms Ryan’s exit.

“She was probably facing a de-selection in any event,” he told BBC’s Newsnight.

He said he had never known Labour to be “more united” than it was now and it was “regrettable that a minority of MPs” were out of step with the popular mood in the country.

Labour has suggested MPs who change political allegiance have a duty to seek a fresh mandate from their constituents.

The party is considering giving voters the power to force MPs who switch parties between general elections to face by-elections by strengthening the existing recall laws.

In a statement released before the news of Ms Ryan’s exit, Shadow Cabinet minister Jon Trickett said voters should not have to wait years to hold to account MPs who they believe are not “properly representing their interests”.

LGBT group severs links with Navratilova over transgender comments”:

Martina Navratilova has been a longstanding campaigner for gay rights

A US-based organisation that campaigns for LGBT sportspeople has cut its links with tennis legend Martina Navratilova over comments she made about male-to-female transgender athletes.

The 18-times Grand Slam winner wrote it was “cheating” to allow transgender women to compete in women’s sport as they had unfair physical advantages.

Athlete Ally said the remarks were transphobic and perpetuated myths.

It said it had sacked the star from its advisory board and as an ambassador.

In an article for the British newspaper The Sunday Times, Navratilova wrote: “A man can decide to be female, take hormones if required by whatever sporting organisation is concerned, win everything in sight and perhaps earn a small fortune, and then reverse his decision and go back to making babies if he so desires.”

She added: “It’s insane and it’s cheating. I am happy to address a transgender woman in whatever form she prefers, but I would not be happy to compete against her. It would not be fair.”

Trans sportswomen quickly hit back. Rachel McKinnon, who last year became the first transgender woman to win a world track cycling title, called the comments “disturbing, upsetting and deeply transphobic”.

In its statement, Athlete Ally said Navratilova’s comments were “transphobic, based on a false understanding of science and data, and perpetuate dangerous myths that lead to the ongoing targeting of trans people through discriminatory laws, hateful stereotypes and disproportionate violence”.

Martina Navratilova won 18 Grand Slam singles titles

It added: “This is not the first time we have approached Martina on this topic. In late December, she made deeply troubling comments across her social media channels about the ability for trans athletes to compete in sport. We reached out directly offering to be a resource as she sought further education, and we never heard back.”

Athlete Ally said Navratilova joined as an ambassador and was honoured with an Action Award at the group’s first annual gala in 2014.

She has since taken part in advocacy campaigns including signing an open letter calling on the International Basketball Federation (Fiba) to overturn its ban on the hijab and an open letter speaking out against an anti-trans bill in Texas in 2017.

The group said the former champion had not yet responded to its decision to drop her.

Navratilova has been a longstanding campaigner for gay rights and suffered abuse when she came out as gay in the 1980s.

Under guidelines introduced in 2016, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) allows athletes transitioning from female to male to participate without restrictions.

Male to female competitors, however, are required to have kept their levels of testosterone – a hormone that increases muscle mass – below a certain level for at least 12 months.

Statue of WW2 kiss vandalised after US sailor’s death

The day after the death of the US sailor famously photographed kissing a stranger at the end of World War Two, a statue depicting the moment has been vandalised with graffiti reading “#MeToo”.

Red spray paint was used to vandalise the “Unconditional Surrender” statue in Sarasota, Florida, on Monday, according to local police.

Police estimate the cost of the damage to be $1,000 (£765) “due to the large area that the graffiti covers”.

For many the image of George Mendonsa kissing Greta Zimmer Friedman represents the joy felt across the US on the day Japan surrendered, ending World War Two.

However, in more recent years some have suggested the photo depicts an act of sexual assault, given the fact Mr Mendonsa did not have Ms Friedman’s consent to kiss her.

The MeToo movement has shone a light on historic claims of sexual assault, and opened up a debate about consent and assault.

In a 2005 interview for the Veteran’s History Project, Greta Zimmer Friedman said it wasn’t her choice to be kissed and that Mr Mendonsa “grabbed” her.

However, she made it clear the kiss was a “jubilant act” and “it was just an event of ‘thank god the war is over.'”

After Ms Zimmer’s death in 2016, her son told the New York Timeshis mother did not view the kiss negatively.

Sarasota Police Department shared the images of the defaced statue on social media, leading many to express their annoyance at the graffiti and the insinuation that the kiss was sexual assault.

“This statue represents a period in time that many today cannot relate to,” one person wrote on Facebook. “The whole country was celebrating the end of a war – the whole country was together in that celebration.”

Another commented: “Sexual assault is terrible but this was certainly not that situation. I can assure you this poor man who just died this week was not thinking of sexually assaulting a woman when he found out World War Two was over!”

Others suggested that the vandalism was disrespectful, given Mr Mendonsa’s recent death.

“[It is] sad this happened, especially since this guy just died the other day at 95 years old.”

However, others suggested the graffiti was justified.

One Facebook user urged the city to “take the statue down”.

“It may be called ‘Unconditional Surrender,’ but the circumstance was ‘Involuntary Surrender.’ She didn’t know that guy, he just grabbed her and kissed her,” the commenter continued.

“[I’m] not saying this woman feels like a victim, but technically it was an unwanted, unsolicited sexual act. Plain and simple,” another person wrote.

“The MeToo movement is also meant to educate and understand that women cannot continue to be seen as sex objects that men can just take when they want!”

The City of Sarasota confirmed the graffiti was removed on Tuesday morning.

House launches probe of US nuclear plan in Saudi Arabia

President Trump at the Arab Islamic American Summit in Riyadh in 2017

The US is rushing to transfer sensitive nuclear power technology to Saudi Arabia, according to a new congressional report.

A Democratic-led House panel has launched an inquiry over concerns about the White House plan to build nuclear reactors across the kingdom.

Whistleblowers told the panel it could destabilise the Middle East by boosting nuclear weapons proliferation.

Firms linked to the president have reportedly pushed for these transfers.

The House of Representatives’ Oversight Committee report notes that an inquiry into the matter is “particularly critical because the Administration’s efforts to transfer sensitive US nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia appear to be ongoing”.

President Donald Trump met nuclear power developers at the White House on 12 February to discuss building plants in Middle Eastern nations, including Saudi Arabia.

And Mr Trump’s son-in-law, White House adviser Jared Kushner, will be touring the Middle East this month to discuss the economics of the Trump administration’s peace plan.

Saudi Arabia has said it wants nuclear power in order to diversify its energy sources and help address growing energy needs.

But concerns around rival Iran developing nuclear technology are also at play, according to US media.

Previous negotiations for US nuclear technology ended after Saudi Arabia refused to agree to safeguards against using the tech for weaponry, but the Trump administration may not see these safeguards as mandatory, ProPublica reported.

Critics say giving Saudi Arabia access to US nuclear technology would spark a dangerous arms race in the volatile region.

White House Advisor Jared Kushner, watches alongside a member of the Saudi Delegation during a meeting between President Donald Trump and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, D.C.

Adviser Jared Kushner watches alongside a member of the Saudi Delegation during a meeting between President Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

What does the report say?

The House report is based on whistleblower accounts and documents showing communications between Trump administration officials and nuclear power companies.

It states that “within the US, strong private commercial interests have been pressing aggressively for the transfer of highly sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia”.

These commercial entities could “reap billions of dollars through contracts associated with constructing and operating nuclear facilities in Saudi Arabia”.

Mr Trump is reportedly “directly engaged in the effort”.

The White House has yet to comment on the report.

The report includes a timeline of events and names other administration officials who have been involved with the matter, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Mr Kushner, Mr Trump’s inaugural committee chairman Tom Barrack and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

Flynn was found guilty of lying about Russian contacts by special counsel Robert Mueller as a part of the inquiry into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

The commercial entities mentioned in the report are:

  • IP3 International, a private company led by ex-military officers and security officials that organised a group of US companies to build “dozens of nuclear power plants” in Saudi Arabia
  • ACU Strategic Partners, a nuclear power consultancy led by British-American Alex Copson
  • Colony NorthStar, Mr Barrack’s real estate investment firm
  • Flynn Intel Group, a consultancy and lobby set up by Michael Flynn
Then White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn arrives prior to a joint news conference between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House in Washington, DC, U.S. on February 13, 2017

Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was deeply involved with the nuclear plans, the report says

The report states that Flynn had decided to develop IP3’s nuclear initiative, the Middle East Marshall Plan, during his transition, and while he was still serving as an adviser for the company.

In January 2017, National Security Council staff began to raise concerns that these plans were inappropriate and possibly illegal, and that Flynn had a potentially criminal conflict of interest.

Following Flynn’s dismissal, however, IP3 continued to push for the Middle East Plans to be presented to Mr Trump.

According to the report, one senior official said the proposal was “a scheme for these generals to make some money”.

And whistleblowers described the White House working environment as “marked by chaos, dysfunction and backbiting”.

What next?

The report says an investigation will determine whether the administration has been acting “in the national security interests of the United States or, rather, [to] serve those who stand to gain financially” from this policy change.

These apparent conflicts of interest among White House advisers may breach federal law, and the report notes that there is bi-partisan concern regarding Saudi Arabia’s access to nuclear technology.

The oversight committee is seeking interviews with the companies, “key personnel” who promoted the plan to the White House, as well as the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Defence, State, Treasury, the White House and the CIA.

IS ‘trapping 200 families’ in last bastion in Syria”:

Some 20,000 people who have fled Baghuz in recent weeks have been taken to a camp

The UN has expressed concern about the fate of some 200 families reportedly trapped in the last tiny area of Syria still held by the Islamic State group.

Human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said the many women and children in Baghuz were apparently being actively prevented from leaving by IS militants.

They also continued to be subjected to intense bombardment by US-led coalition forces and allied Syrian fighters.

Ms Bachelet demanded that safe passage be provided to those wanting to flee.

Could a defeated IS rebound?

“Those wish to remain must also be protected as much as possible,” she added. “They should not be sacrificed to ideology on the one hand, or military expediency on the other.

“If protecting civilian lives means taking a few more days to capture the last fraction of land controlled by [IS], then so be it.”

IS members walk in the last area held by the jihadist group in Baghuz, Syria (18 February 2019)

IS militants are reportedly confined to tents pitched on top of a network of tunnels and caves

Five years ago, IS controlled 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) of territory stretching from western Syria to eastern Iraq, proclaimed the creation of a “caliphate”, imposed its brutal rule on almost eight million people and generated billions of dollars from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

Now, an estimated 300 militants and hundreds of civilians are surrounded inside about 0.5 sq km (0.2 square miles) of land in the Baghuz area, which is in the Middle Euphrates River Valley near the border with Iraq.

Map showing last IS-held territory in Syria (18 February 2019)

Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance launched an offensive to capture Baghuz on 9 February.

On Monday, unconfirmed reports suggested that the IS militants were seeking to negotiate safe passage to the opposition-held north-western province of Idlib.

There was no confirmation from the SDF. But a spokesman appeared to dismiss such an idea on Tuesday, insisting the militants had “only two options – either they surrender or they will be killed in battle”.

“We are working on secluding and evacuating civilians and then we will attack. This could happen soon,” Mustafa Bali was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.

Fighters from the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance in Baghuz, Syria (19 February 2019)

US-backed SDF fighters launched an assault on Baghuz this month

Although no civilians have reportedly made it out of Baghuz in the past three days, some 20,000 have been taken by the SDF to a makeshift camp for displaced people at al-Hol, in Hassakeh province, in recent weeks.

Among them are the wives and children of IS militants and many foreign nationals, including the British teenager Shamima Begum, who was 15 when she ran away from her home to join IS four years ago.

The International Rescue Committee said on Monday that at least 62 people had died on their way to al-Hol, two thirds of them children under the age of one. Exhaustion and malnutrition were the principle causes of the deaths.

Shamima Begum: ‘The poster girl thing was not my choice’

Ms Bachelet also said she was alarmed by an upsurge in attacks and civilian casualties in Idlib province, where a takeover by a jihadist group linked to al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, has jeopardised a truce brokered by Turkey and Russia in September.

The Syrian government’s bombardment of a demilitarised buffer zone, which runs along the frontline in Idlib and areas of northern Hama and western Aleppo provinces, started to escalate in December and has further intensified in recent days, according to the UN.

At the same time, there has been an increase in fighting among rebel and jihadist factions, and also in the use of improvised explosive devices in areas they control.

On Monday, at least 16 civilians, including women and children, were reportedly killed by two bomb explosions in the Qusour district of Idlib city. The second blast appeared to have been designed to kill people, including medical workers, trying to come to the aid victims of the first.

Another nine civilians, including four women and two boys, were meanwhile reportedly killed by government strikes on Khan Sheikhoun on Friday and Saturday.

How the jihadist group rose and fell

October 2006
The jihadist group announces the creation of the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) and in April 2010, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes its leader.

January 2013
The Islamic State of Iraq (ISI) begins seizing control of territory in Syria, including the city of Raqqa. In April that year, al-Baghdadi changes his group’s name to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil or Isis).

June 2014
Isis conquers over a dozen Iraqi cities and towns like Mosul and Tikrit, and seizes Syria’s largest oilfield in the Homs province. On 29 June, the jihadist group formally declares the creation of a caliphate and becomes known as Islamic State (IS).

August 2014
IS fighters begin killing and enslaving thousands from the Yazidi religious minority in northern Iraq and release the first of several videos of Western hostages – journalists and aid workers – being beheaded.

September 2014
The US begins air strikes, starting with attacks on the de-facto IS capital of Raqqa.

January 2015
IS is at the height of its control, ruling over almost eight million people across 88,000 sq km (34,000 sq miles) from western Syria to eastern Iraq. It is also generating billions of dollars from oil, extortion, robbery and kidnapping.

March 2016
The Syrian government recaptures the ancient city of Palmyra, but loses it again in December 2016 and then finally recaptures the destroyed Unesco World Heritage site in March 2017.

July 2017
Iraqi forces liberate Mosul, but the 10-month battle leaves thousands of civilians dead, more than 800,000 displaced and much of Iraq’s second city destroyed.

October 2017
IS loses control of Raqqa to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, ending three years of rule.

December 2017
Iraq’s government declares victory over IS after retaking full control of the Iraqi-Syrian border.

February 2019
US President Donald Trump says the jihadist group is close to being defeated, after a battle for the final IS-held territory on the Syrian-Iraqi border lasted weeks.

Bernie Sanders announces second US presidential bid”:

The 77-year-old ran for the Democratic nomination in 2016 but lost out to Hillary Clinton

US Senator Bernie Sanders says he will run again for president in 2020, making a second attempt to win the Democratic Party’s nomination.

The 77-year-old Vermont senator became a progressive political star in 2016 although he lost his candidacy bid.

In an email to supporters, he said it was time to complete the “political revolution” they had started.

An outspoken critic of President Donald Trump, Mr Sanders has described him as a “pathological liar” and “racist”.

Mr Sanders – an independent who caucuses with the Democrats – is one of the best-known names to join a crowded and diverse field of Democratic candidates, and early polls suggest he is far ahead.

His calls for universal government-provided healthcare, a $15 national minimum wage and free college education electrified young voters, raised millions of dollars in small donations and are now pillars of the party’s left wing.

Mr Sanders, who lost the 2016 Democratic primary to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, said in his email: “Three years ago, when we talked about these and other ideas, we were told that they were ‘radical’ and ‘extreme’.

“Together, you and I and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution. Now, it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for.”

Presentational grey line

No longer an underdog

After building a grass-roots political movement that roiled the Democratic Party in 2016, Bernie Sanders is making another run at the prize.

This time, he won’t be the rumpled underdog. He’ll start the race near the front of the pack – with advantages in small-donor fundraising, name recognition and a 50-state organisation of loyalists.

His front-runner status will come with a price, however. Unlike 2016, when Hillary Clinton largely avoided confronting the Vermont senator for fear of alienating his supporters, his opponents will have no such reluctance this time.

In 2016, the self-proclaimed “Democratic socialist” staked out a progressive agenda in contrast with Ms Clinton’s pragmatic centrism. Now, in part because of Mr Sanders’ efforts, the party has moved left on issues like healthcare, education and income inequality. His message is no longer unique.

The 77-year-old senator will keep his devoted base, but will some former supporters opt for a fresh face? That could lead to conflict with those who believe a Bernie “revolution” is the only way forward, inflaming Democratic wounds not fully healed from the last campaign.

In a crowded field, Mr Sanders has a realistic shot – but it could be a bumpy ride.

Presentational grey line

Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Delaney and Julian Castro are among those who have also announced their intention to run in the Democratic primary in 2020, the first time more than one woman has competed.

If Mr Sanders is successful in his bid, he will become the oldest presidential candidate in US history.

In his email, which lays out a series of policy issues, Mr Sanders also says: “You know as well as I do that we are living in a pivotal and dangerous moment in American history.

“We are running against a president who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction.”

Bernie Sanders speaks at a Committee on Racial Equality Sit-In in 1962

Mr Sanders speaks at a Committee on Racial Equality Sit-In in 1962

Who is Bernie Sanders?

Mr Sanders is the longest-serving independent in congressional history, but competes for the Democratic nomination as he says standing as a third-party candidate would diminish his chances of winning the presidency.

He attended the University of Chicago, and in the 1960s and 1970s participated in antiwar and civil rights activism, like the 1963 March on Washington.

He was first elected to the House of Representatives in 1990, the first independent to achieve such a feat in 40 years. He served there until he ran for and won a seat in the Senate in 2007.

Mr Sanders entered the race for the 2016 Democratic nomination as a long-shot candidate but emerged as a surprise star during a series of televised debates.

He labels himself a Democratic socialist, which he has defined as someone who seeks to “create an economy that works for all, not just the very wealthy”.

Mr Sanders also has a diplomacy-first attitude towards foreign policy and voted against the US invasion of Iraq in 2002.

Sanders supporter with white hair T-shirt
Mr Sanders attracted a large amount of younger voters during his 2016 campaign

He became Mrs Clinton’s closest rival, but she ultimately won the nomination before losing the presidential election to Mr Trump.

In January, Mr Sanders apologised to female staff members on his 2016 campaign after allegations of harassment against senior aides emerged.

Several aides complained of a “predatory culture” in his campaign and alleged that senior male staff had mistreated younger workers.

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More Labour MPs and some Tories could join new group – Chuka Umunna”:

MPs resign from Labour over Brexit and anti-Semitism

More Labour MPs could quit the party unless it listens to their concerns, Jeremy Corbyn has been warned.

Seven MPs have walked out in protest at the Labour leader’s handling of anti-Semitism and Brexit.

One of the seven, Chuka Umunna, said “a lot of Labour MPs” could follow suit, together with Tories “demoralised by the UKIPisation of their party”.

Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson has warned his party could see more defections if it did not change.

He said Labour had to do more to tackle anti-Semitism and he also urged Mr Corbyn to reshuffle his shadow cabinet to reflect a wider range of MPs.

Mr Corbyn has said in a statement he was “disappointed” by the defections, which represent the biggest split in the Labour Party since the Social Democratic Party was set up 40 years ago.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said the seven should now stand down as MPs and seek re-election against Labour Party candidates.

The seven MPs – Mr Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey – quit Labour in protest at what they said was a culture of “bullying and bigotry” in the party and frustration over the leadership’s reluctance to back another EU referendum.

Mr Umunna said another “big issue for us” was the belief that Mr Corbyn could not be trusted with national security, if he became prime minister.

“Many Labour MPs agree with us on that,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

Mr Umunna said the new Independent Group was not yet a new political party, but he believed it could become one in time.

He urged members of all parties to join them in building an “alternative” to the current two party system, which he said was “fundamentally broken”.

Infographic showing ex-Labour Mps, their majority and when they were elected

The BBC has been told two Conservative MPs are thinking of joining the new Independent Group in Parliament.

Mr Umunna refused to speculate on who they could be but he added: “There are a lot of Labour MPs wrestling with their conscience on this issue but also Conservatives who have become demoralised by the UKIPisation, if you like, of the Conservative Party.”

A number of Conservative MPs are at the centre of rumours about joining the new group.

Sarah Wollaston, a supporter of the People’s Vote campaign for another EU referendum, along with the seven Labour defectors, has warned about former UKIP members joining local Tory parties and the pro-Brexit European Research Group (ERG) pushing the party to the right.

On Monday evening, she tweeted: “#BLUKIP has been busy taking over the Tory Party alongside the ERG. Soon there will be nothing left at all to appeal to moderate centre ground voters.”

Other Conservative MPs unhappy with the party’s direction include Anna Soubry, another People’s Vote supporter, who has called in the past for a new centre party.

A new political landscape?

This splintering might, just might – in time – turn into a much bigger redrawing of the landscape.

For now though that is way off. And this is first and foremost about the Labour Party – the seeds of the splinter sown more than three years ago, bearing bitter fruit just when Parliament’s biggest decisions over Brexit are about to be made.

Read Laura’s full blog

Several Labour MPs have said they are considering their future in the party – but more have said they are sticking with it.

Former shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh told Today: “I have [been approached] and I’ve said no. I think what is important is we now take a long hard look at ourselves as a political party.

“It is clear that Brexit is pushing both parties to the brink, it is clear that anti-Semitism has taken root in our party.”

More Labour MPs and some Tories could join new group - Chuka Umunna":
John McDonnell:

John McDonnell: Resigning MPs have ‘responsibility’ to call by-elections

Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray told the BBC he was sticking with Labour but “may change his mind” unless the party responded to concerns about its culture and direction.

Labour MP Jess Phillips, writing in the Daily Telegraph, called on Mr Corbyn to listen to why the MPs had quit and “act on it”, warning that reacting with bitterness could cause the party to “burst apart”.

However, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told the Daily Mirror that the resignations were a “distracting and divisive exercise”.

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Labour MPs had to “listen to each other”.

But she added: “Equally, I think we also have a duty to unify and make sure that we provide a force for change within Britain.”

Shamima Begum: ‘I didn’t want to be IS poster girl’

In an interview with the BBC’s Middle East correspondent Quentin Sommerville, Shamima Begum – the schoolgirl who fled London to join the Islamic State group in Syria – has said she never wanted to be an IS “poster girl”. Ms Begum, who has just given birth, said she now wants the UK’s forgiveness and supports “some British values”.

She told the BBC while it was “wrong” innocent people died in the 2017 Manchester attack, it was “kind of retaliation” for attacks on IS. The 19-year-old left Bethnal Green four years ago with two school friends

Labour warned more MPs ‘thinking hard’ about futures

MPs resign from Labour over Brexit and anti-Semitism

More Labour MPs could quit the party unless it listens to their concerns, Jeremy Corbyn has been warned.

Following the decision of seven Labour MPs to walk out on Monday, colleagues expressed anger with the leadership during a “tense” meeting in Parliament.

Corbyn-critic Ian Austin said others would “think hard” about leaving unless it fixed its anti-Semitism problem.

The BBC has been told two Tory MPs are thinking about joining the ex-Labour MPs’ independent group in Parliament.

The BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssberg said a small number of Conservatives were considering their futures amid unhappiness over the government’s Brexit policy.

Chuka Umunna, Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Mike Gapes, Gavin Shuker and Ann Coffey quit Labour’s ranks in protest at what they said was a culture of “bullying and bigotry” in the party and frustration over the leadership’s reluctance to back another EU referendum.

The seven are not launching a new political party but have urged other Labour MPs – and members of other parties – to join them in “building a new politics”.

Their departures have provoked a mixed reaction at the top of the party, with Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell saying they should stand down and allow by-elections in their constituencies.

But deputy leader Tom Watson said the move was a wake-up call for the party. He condemnedthose on the “hard left” who he said were celebrating their exit, saying he “sometimes no longer recognised” the party.

Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray told the BBC he was sticking with Labour but “may change his mind” unless the party responded to concerns about its culture and direction.

Speaking after a Labour meeting in Westminster – addressed by party chairman Ian Lavery – Mr Austin said Labour must act to stop more MPs jumping ship.

Infographic showing ex-Labour Mps, their majority and when they were elected

Mr Austin said Mr Lavery had failed to “demonstrate the leadership” and “understand the scale of the problem we have” with anti-Semitism within its ranks.

“If that is the best the leadership can do, I can see more people taking the same course of action,” he said.

“I think it will result in people thinking long and hard about their position in the party.”

John McDonnell: Resigning MPs have ‘responsibility’ to call by-elections

The BBC’s political correspondent Ben Wright said several MPs thought Mr Lavery had misjudged the mood of the meeting by delivering a tub-thumping speech about being proud of the party.

But he said he did not get a sense that other MPs were poised to join the splinter group.

Party sources said Mr Lavery had insisted Labour must remain a “broad-church” and it was determined to root out the “appalling abuse” that Ms Berger in particular had been subjected to.

Announcing her resignation on Monday, the Liverpool Wavertree MP said Labour had become institutionally anti-Semitic and she was “embarrassed and ashamed” to stay.

Labour MP Jess Phillips, writing in the Daily Telegraph, called on Mr Corbyn to listen to why the MPs had quit and “act on it”, warning that reacting with bitterness could cause the party to “burst apart”.

However, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry told the Daily Mirror that the resignations were a “distracting and divisive exercise”.

A new political landscape?

Independent Group launch

By BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg

So far they are not a political party, although they say they may evolve into one. So far they have no leader, and no policy programme as such.

They are clearly open to welcoming disgruntled members of the Conservative party too.

Their view is that our whole political system is broken and neither the Tories nor Labour fit for purpose. And it is possible within days that they might be joined by a sprinkling of Tory MPs.

This splintering might, just might – in time – turn into a much bigger redrawing of the landscape.

For now though that is way off. And this is first and foremost about the Labour Party – the seeds of the splinter sown more than three years ago, bearing bitter fruit just when Parliament’s biggest decisions over Brexit are about to be made.

In a founding statement on its website, the group sets out its approach to the economy, public services and security, as well as Brexit.

But the seven MPs rejected comparisons with the SDP which broke away from the Labour Party in the early 1980s but eventually merged with the Liberal Party.

Mr Corbyn said he was “disappointed” the MPs had felt unable to continue working for the policies that “inspired millions” at the 2017 election.

The Labour leader is likely to be pressed on the issue when he makes a speech on Brexit and education on Tuesday – in which he will announce the setting up of a new commission on life-long learning.

Is Derek Hatton rejoining Labour?

Mr Corbyn is also likely to face questions over reports that Derek Hatton – the face of the hard-left Militant Tendency group in the 1980s – has had his application to rejoin the party approved.

Mr Hatton, who was expelled from Labour in 1986, told the BBC that his membership had been approved although Labour said it could not comment on individual applications.

Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh told BBC’s Newsnight that this “showed that no-one was listening” to centrist MPs who had fought to ensure Labour was not a “rump of a party” that was not interested in holding power.

Meanwhile, Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay is to brief the Cabinet on his latest negotiations with the European Union.

The Department for Exiting the EU said he had a “productive” discussion with the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier in Brussels on Monday.

Mexico border wall: US states sue over emergency declaration”:

A coalition of 16 US states led by California is suing President Donald Trump’s administration over his decision to declare an emergency to raise funds for a Mexican border wall.

The lawsuit was filed in the court for the Northern District of California.

It comes days after Mr Trump invoked emergency powers to bypass Congress and secure funding for the project – a key campaign pledge.

Democrats have vowed to contest it “using every remedy available”.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said they were taking President Trump to court “to block his misuse of presidential power”.

“We’re suing President Trump to stop him from unilaterally robbing taxpayer funds lawfully set aside by Congress for the people of our states. For most of us, the office of the presidency is not a place for theatre,” he added.

The lawsuit filed on Monday seeks a preliminary injunction that would stop Mr Trump acting on his emergency declaration while a legal battle takes place in the courts, the Washington Post reported.

Trump: ‘I’ve signed the order – now we’ll be sued’

Mr Trump announced the plan after Congress refused funding for the wall.

The first legal challenge followed swiftly on Friday. A liberal advocacy group, Public Citizen, sued on behalf of a nature reserve and three Texas landowners who have been told the wall may be constructed on their properties.

Governor Gavin Newsom of California dismissed the president’s decision as “political theatre” while New York state’s Democratic attorney general, Letitia James, promised to “fight back with every legal tool at our disposal”.

Joining California in the lawsuit were Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Virginia and Michigan.

The states argue that President Trump’s order to divert funds to pay for the wall would cost them millions of dollars, damaging their economies.

How did Mr Trump declare the emergency?

Making the announcement in the White House Rose Garden on Friday, the president said the emergency would allow him to get almost $8bn for the wall.

This is still considerably short of the estimated $23bn cost of the wall along almost 2,000 miles (3,200km) of border.

Mr Trump accepted that he would be sued for the move, and predicted that the emergency order would lead to legal action which was likely to end up in the Supreme Court.

Senator McConnell supports the president; Speaker Pelosi warns it sets a dangerous precedent

“We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border,” he said.

“Everyone knows that walls work.”

However, the president also said that he did not need to declare the emergency but did so in the hope of obtaining the funds for the wall more quickly, but analysts say these comments could undermine his legal arguments.

What is a national emergency?

The National Emergencies Act is intended for times of national crisis. Mr Trump has claimed that there is a migration crisis at the nation’s southern border – a claim strongly refuted by migration experts.

The largest number of illegal migrants settling in the US each year is those who stay in the country after their visas expire.

Declaring a national emergency would give the president access to special powers that effectively allow him to bypass the usual political process, and he would be able to divert money from existing military or disaster relief budgets to pay for the wall.

Chart: There are 31 ongoing national emergencies

Emergency declarations by previous presidents have been overwhelmingly used for addressing foreign policy crises – including blocking terrorism-linked entities from accessing funds or prohibiting investment in nations associated with human rights abuses.