LONDON -- Seven Labour lawmakers quit Britain's main opposition party on Monday over leader Jeremy Corbyn's approach to Brexit and a row over anti-Semitism, saying Labour had been "hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left."
The seven lawmakers were: Luciana Berger, Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Chuka Umunna, Mike Gapes and Ann Coffey. They will continue to sit as lawmakers in parliament under the banner "The Independent Group."
Jewish MP Berger said that she could not remain a member of a party that is “institutionally anti-Semitic” and said the decision to leave had been “difficult, painful but necessary."
She accused the Labour leadership of failing to address hatred directed at the party's Jewish members.
"I am leaving behind a culture of bullying, bigotry and intimidation," she said.
The departure of the small group of lawmakers underlines the mounting frustration with party leader Jeremy Corbyn's reluctance to change his Brexit strategy and start campaigning for a second referendum on Britain's membership of the European Union.
With only 39 days until Britain leaves the EU in its biggest foreign and trade policy shift in more than 40 years, divisions over Brexit have fragmented British politics, breaking down traditional party lines and creating new coalitions across the country's left/right divide.
"The Labour party that we joined that we campaigned for and believed in is no longer today's Labour Party. We did everything we could to save it, but it has now been hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left," lawmaker Chris Leslie told a news conference.
"Evidence of Labour's betrayal on Europe is now visible for all to see. Offering to actually enable this government's Brexit, constantly holding back from allowing the public a final say."
Corbyn, a self-styled peace campaigner, has been accused by numerous lawmakers for failing to tackle anti-Semitism in the party, an allegation that has dogged the pro-Palestinian politician since he became leader in 2015.
The Labour leader, whose anti-Israel stance is no secret, last year denied visiting the graves of the terrorists behind the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Massacre, but photos published by the Daily Mail days later showed him at a 2014 memorial service in Tunisia for members of the Black September terror organization that carried out the murders.
In photos taken a year before Corbyn was elected as the leader of the Labour Party, he is seen holding a wreath over the grave of Atef Bseiso, the head of intelligence for the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), who helped plan the attack at the Munich Olympics, which claimed the lives of 11 Israeli athletes.
A source close to Corbyn insisted to the Daily Mail that the 2014 service he attended commemorated the 47 Palestinians killed in an Israeli air strike on a Tunisian PLO base in 1985.
A Labour source close to the group of seven said earlier Monday that the departures could trigger a second wave of resignations, underlining the frustration over Corbyn's approach to Britain's biggest shift in foreign and trade policy in more than 40 years.
Corbyn has so far stuck to Labour policy to keep the option of a second referendum "on the table" if Prime Minister Theresa May's government fails to secure a deal with Brussels that can pass through parliament.
His first choice is a new election but he has also called on May to change her "red lines" and for her to embrace his plan for a permanent customs union with the EU - something the prime minister has so far refused to do.
Britain's 2016 referendum, which saw 52 percent of voters back leaving the EU, has deeply divided both of the country's main parties, with both leaders struggling to preserve any unity in Labour and Conservative ranks.
Corbyn said in a response to the departures: "I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election."