WATCH: Tory MP Phillip Lee defects to the Liberal Democrats with swipe at Boris Johnson over 'damaging' Brexit
Phillip Lee has defected from the Conservatives to the Liberal Democrats, leaving the Government without a majority in the Commons.
In a blow for Boris Johnson the Bracknell MP crossed the floor of the Commons and took up a seat with new Lib Dem colleagues, just as the Prime Minister began his first statement to MPs after they returned from summer recess.
His defection comes just hours ahead of a crunch Commons bid to extend Article 50.
Announcing his resignation, the anti-Brexit campaigner hit out at the Government for “aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit.”
He said: “The Party I joined in 1992 is not the Party I am leaving today.
"This Conservative Government is aggressively pursuing a damaging Brexit in unprincipled ways. It is putting lives and livelihoods at risk unnecessarily and it is wantonly endangering the integrity of the United Kingdom.
“More widely, it is undermining our country’s economy, democracy and role in the world. It is using political manipulation, bullying and lies. And it is doing these things in a deliberate and considered way.
He added: “I believe the Liberal Democrats are best placed to build the unifying and inspiring political force needed to heal our divisions, unleash our talents, equip us to take the opportunities and overcome the challenges that we face as a society - and leave our country and our world in a better place for the next generations."
Dr Lee joins former Conservative Sarah Wollaston, former Labour MP Chuka Umunna and newly-elected Jane Dodds in the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election in growing the Lib Dems numbers in the Parliament.
His resignation comes as Tories Justine Greening, Keith Simpson and Alistair Burt confirmed they would not stand for the party in the next General Election on Tuesday.
Writing to the Prime Minister, Dr Lee said: “Sadly, the Brexit process has helped to transform this once great Party in to something more akin to a narrow faction, where an individual’s ‘conservatism’ is measured by how recklessly one wishes to leave the European Union. Perhaps most disappointingly, it has increasingly become infected with the twin diseases of populism and English nationalism.”
Liberal Democrat leader Jo Swinson said: "I am delighted to welcome Phillip to the Liberal Democrats at this crucial time.
"He brings almost 10 years of Parliamentary experience and decades of professional expertise. He shares our commitment to prevent a disastrous No Deal Brexit, and to stop Brexit altogether.
"The Liberal Democrats are growing. Phillip follows both Chuka Umunna MP and Sarah Wollaston MP in bravely crossing the floor to join us.
"Today, we also welcome Jane Dodds MP to Parliament, following her recent victory in Brecon and Radnorshire. And these representatives join over 30,000 new members, who have joined the Liberal Democrats since our best ever results in the European Elections in May."
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn also mocked the Prime Minister following Mr Lee's defection.
"He isn't winning friends in Europe, he's losing friends at home," he said.
"His is a government with no mandate, no morals, and as of today, no majority."