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Ukip loses more MEPs over Tommy Robinson appointment

by Lamiat Sabin, parliamentary reporter

UKIP lost three more MEPs today as they quit over the party’s association with Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

MEP and former leader Paul Nuttall said he was stepping down because of party leader Gerard Batten appointment of the fascist English Defence League founder (EDL), also known as “Tommy Robinson” as his adviser on rape gangs and prison reform.

“The association with Tommy Robinson will simply appal many moderate Brexit voters,” he added.

He was joined by Ukip leader in Scotland, MEP David Coburn, who said he could not stand the “English nationalist direction” that was being taken by the party, as well as Welsh MEP Nathan Gill.

Mr Gill said: “I can no longer belong to a party that switched its primary focus from Brexit to a foolish pursuit against Islam and promotion of Tommy Robinson.”

Later, London assembly member Peter Whittle, Ukip’s 2016 candidate for London mayor, also resigned.

The resignation of the three MEPs plunged the party into turmoil, forcing its leader Mr Batten to pull out of his European party group, the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD).

Mr Batten announced his resignation from EFDD after the exodus that included EFDD president and former Ukip leader Nigel Farage.

Mr Farage said on Tuesday, when he quit Ukip, that the party has a fixation with Mr Batten’s anti-Muslim policies.

Several other leading Ukip figures have also quit in recent weeks over the party’s lurch to the far-right. They include the former leadership candidate Suzanne Evans and MEP Patrick O’Flynn.

The latest resignations mean more than half of Ukip’s 24 MEPs elected in 2014 no longer represent the party.

Muslim Association of Britain president Dr Anas Altikriti said: “This obscene proposed marriage between Ukip and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is an outcome that the anti-racism and anti-Islamophobia movements have long predicted and warned of.

“A political party that appealed to the mainstream public for so long, whilst demonstrating the subtle undertones and grey shades of racism and Islamophobia which many brushed off as unimportant, insignificant and properly even acceptable.

“This now demonstrates that there can be no degrees to racism, nor can there be any acceptable or tolerable manifestations thereof.

“When even Nigel Farage condemns the party for the line it has chosen, one knows that Ukip have indeed gone beyond the pale and must be cast as a racist Islamophobic and hate-driven element that deserves nothing but utter contempt.”

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