Change UK has sought to market itself as the party of Remain as it put the NHS, climate change and fighting Brexit austerity at the heart of it’s European election campaign.
Acting leader Heidi Allen said Brexit was the “biggest symbol of our broken system” as she launched the newly formed party’s “Charter for Remain” ahead of the 23 May contest.
The blueprint pledges to campaign for a referendum with remaining in the EU on the ballot paper and to fight to ensure any Brexit deal has a confirmatory vote attached.
It also sets out how the UK could use membership of the EU to push for change on domestic and international issues.
The move comes as pro-EU parties were scrambling to win the anti-Brexit vote in the upcoming poll, with the Liberal Democrats launching a special edition manifesto under the slogan “Bollocks to Brexit”.
Labour is also embroiled in its own rows over leaving the EU, as shadow cabinet minister Richard Burgon risked angering pro-EU members by saying Labour “doesn’t exist to stop Brexit”.
At an event in Birmingham, Ms Allen said: “Our politics is broken, with the two main parties so preoccupied with their own self-preservation that they are no longer working in the national interest.
“Meanwhile, Brexit – the biggest symbol of our broken system – continues to consume our country and divide our communities.
“Politics doesn’t need to be like this. And today, we are setting out an alternative.
“We believe the best way forward for our country is to fight to remain in the EU – and to achieve that, we need a people’s vote.”
Amid criticism over Change UK’s lack of non-Brexit policies, Ms Allen sought to set out a “positive vision” for the future, including keeping freedom of movement and pursuing ambitious climate change targets.
The former Tory MP said: “Today we are setting out a positive vision for how Britain can remain prosperous, by retaining freedom of movement.
“How Britain can remain healthy, by reclaiming our leading place in the EMA [European Medicines Agency] and being open to the international talent our NHS needs to continue to excel.
“How we can remain united on climate change, with an ambition to become carbon ‘net zero’ by 2045; and how we can remain stronger in the world, by proudly resuming our status as a leading member of the global community.
“We believe it’s time for change.”
Attempts by pro-EU parties to support a joint candidate in the upcoming Peterborough by-election ended in failure, which left Change UK without a candidate.
The Liberal Democrats, the Greens and Change UK had been in talks over a potential “Remain alliance” to counter Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party, who is hoping to make inroads in the Leave-voting constituency.
But talks collapsed, with Change UK blaming Labour supporters of a second referendum for apparently pressuring the independent candidate to stand aside.
A new YouGov poll showed that electoral pact between the parties could have put them just behind the Brexit Party in the European elections.
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies