LONDON - A group of seven Labour MPs have resigned from the party to sit in the House of Commons as independents, in the most significant split to hit the party since the breakaway of the Social Democratic Party in the early 1980s.

Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Angela Smith, Gavin Shuker, Mike Gapes, Ann Coffey and Chuka Umunna are among the MPs from the party's centrist wing who have been the loudest critics of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, his stance on Brexit and his handling of allegations of anti-Semitism.

At a press conference at London's County Hall to announce their move, Mr Leslie – a former shadow chancellor – said that Labour had been "hijacked by the machine politics of the hard left", while Ms Berger said she had come to the "sickening" conclusion that the party is now "institutionally anti-Semitic".

Mr Corbyn said he was "disappointed" at their decision.

"I am disappointed that these MPs have felt unable to continue to work together for the Labour policies that inspired millions at the last election and saw us increase our vote by the largest share since 1945," said the Labour leader in a statement.

"Labour won people over on a programme for the many not the few – redistributing wealth and power, taking vital resources into public ownership, investing in every region and nation, and tackling climate change.

"The Conservative Government is bungling Brexit, while Labour has set out a unifying and credible alternative plan. When millions are facing the misery of Universal Credit, rising crime, homelessness and poverty, now more than ever is the time to bring people together to build a better future for us all."

Ms Berger accidentally introduced herself as "the Labour Party MP", before correcting herself and saying: "I am the Member of Parliament for Liverpool Wavertree".

She said: "This morning we have all now resigned from the Labour Party. This has been a very difficult, painful, but necessary decision.

"We represent different parts of the country, we are of different backgrounds, we were born of different generations, but we all share the same values.

"From today, we will all sit in Parliament as a new independent group of MPs."

Ms Berger said she had become "embarrassed and ashamed to remain in the Labour Party".

"I have not changed. The core values of equality for all, opportunity for all, anti-racism against all and social justice – the values which I hold really dear and which led me to join the Labour Party as a student almost 20 years ago – remain who I am.

"And yet these values have been consistently and constantly violated, undermined and attacked, as the Labour Party today declines to my constituents and our country before party interests.

"I cannot remain in a party which I have come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic."