LONDON   -   Six of Change UK’s 11 MPs, including its spokesman, Chuka Umunna, and interim leader Heidi Allen, have abandoned the fledgling party after its dire performance at the European elections. Change UK issued a press release saying it now had just five MPs, who will be led by the former Conservative business minister and anti-Brexit campaigner Anna Soubry.

The others remaining are the former Labour MPs Mike Gapes, Chris Leslie, Joan Ryan and Ann Coffey. In a statement, Soubry said: “I’m deeply disappointed that at such a crucial time in British politics our former colleagues have made this decision. “Now isa not the time to walk away, but instead to roll up our sleeves and stand up for the sensible mainstream centre ground which is unrepresented in British politics today.

“Going forward, the Change UK MPs are as determined to fix Britain’s broken politics as we were when we left our former parties.”

None of the departing MPs are defecting immediately to the resurgent Liberal Democrats; but party sources said they expected some to do so in the future. Both Allen and Umunna have been advocating closer cooperation with the Lib Dems. Umunna conceded last week that the party had “made mistakes along the way”, and suggested pro-remain parties should “work together instead of competing”. Change UK, which was initially called the Independent Group, caused a stir in Westminster when it was launched four months ago after the defection of seven Labour MPs. It had hoped to become the catalyst for a major political realignment, attracting a string of other recruits and becoming the rallying point for remainers.

High-profile candidates including the former Conservative minister Stephen Dorrell, and the journalists Rachel Johnson and Gavin Esler, joined the party’s list of prospective MEPs.

But it has been beset by internal disagreements over both strategy and management, including how closely to cooperate with other parties. Change UK’s leading candidate to become an MEP in Scotland, David MacDonald, stepped aside from the race and recommended voting for the Lib Dems. Two other candidates resigned after offensive social media posts were uncovered.