UKIP’s only member in British Parliament quits party to serve as an independent

By Gregory Katz, AP

LONDON — The UK Independence Party (UKIP) is losing its only member of the British Parliament in a blow to the upstart anti-Europe party, which has seen bitter feuding between its top figures.

Douglas Carswell said Saturday that he’s leaving UKIP and will serve in Parliament as an independent. He said his departure won’t trigger a new election because he isn’t joining another party.

Carswell has been in direct conflict with former party leader Nigel Farage, who played a key role in the successful Brexit campaign, and Arron Banks, the party’s most generous donor.

Carswell downplayed these differences. He said the party’s main goal of winning Britain’s exit from the European Union had been achieved now that Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May is set to trigger Article 50 on Wednesday to begin the EU divorce negotiations.

UKIP had campaigned fiercely for more than two decades to convince Britons to leave the EU. That goal was met in a June referendum.

“By April 2019, Britain will no longer be a member of the EU,” Carswell said. “After 24 years, we have done it. Brexit is in good hands.”

Carswell, a former Conservative Party member, was the only UKIP candidate to win a seat in the 2015 general election. The more high-profile Farage lost his bid for a place in Britain’s Parliament.

Farage, who recently left the party leadership and has spent time in the U.S. cultivating a friendship with President Donald Trump, had only harsh words about Carswell’s departure.

He said Carswell “jumped before he was pushed” and should have left UKIP some time ago. He accused Carswell of trying to undermine the party.

Carswell, however, put a positive spin on his departure: “I will leave UKIP amicably, cheerfully and in the knowledge that we won,” he said.

He said without UKIP’s long-term battle against the EU, Britain would never have voted to leave the 28-nation bloc. UKIP had argued that EU regulations were stifling British businesses and that Europe’s commitment to freedom of movement had brought unwanted immigration into Britain.

Carswell’s abrupt departure will cost the party more than 200,000 pounds (US$250,000), which represents its share of public funding distributed among all parties with members in the House of Commons.

The party still has members in the European Parliament in Brussels, including Farage.