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New UK centrist group aims to become a political party

Eleven British lawmakers who have joined new political party 'The Independent Group' pose for a photograph after a press conference in Westminster in London, on Feb. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

LONDON (AP) -- A group of British lawmakers who quit the Conservative and Labour parties to form a centrist independent bloc in Parliament said Tuesday they have begun the progress of forming a new political party.

Spokesman Chuka Umunna said he and other members of the Independent Group were holding talks with elections regulator the Electoral Commission.

"We think people want an alternative," he said.

"We aren't a political party but quite clearly there is an appetite for a new one, so we are here to discuss with them what that involves."

Eight members of Parliament including Umunna quit the opposition Labour Party and three left the governing Conservatives last month, partly in opposition to the government's conduct of Britain's departure from the European Union.

The defections mark the biggest shake-up in years for Britain's political parties. There have long been signs that voters' 2016 decision to leave the EU could spark a major overhaul of British politics, because Brexit has split both the Conservatives and Labour down the middle into feuding pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings.

The breakaway lawmakers want to hold a new referendum on Brexit that could keep Britain in the 28-nation bloc.

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